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Trump loses battle with E. Jean Carroll judge as testimony gets cut short

A graphic with images of Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll.
Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll.Michael M. Santiago/Getty, Mark Wilson/Getty, Tyler Le/BI
  • Donald Trump had only a few minutes on the witness stand in the ongoing defamation trial against him.

  • The judge told the jury to disregard much of his testimony and blocked him from answering several questions.

  • In court, Trump interrupted the proceedings by continuing to claim he never met E. Jean Carroll.

Rarely before have so many people — journalists, legal pundits, and the public — waited so long to hear Donald Trump say so little.

The Republican frontrunner was given a new platform on Thursday, the microphone of the witness stand in the Manhattan federal courtroom of the second E. Jean Carroll defamation trial.

But the federal judge in the case ran such a tight ship that Trump was allowed, on his direct testimony, to give brief answers to just four questions.

He was on the stand for only about three minutes, including a minute or so of cross-examination and redirect testimony.

After Trump took the witness stand, raised his right hand, and swore to tell the truth, his attorney, Alina Habba, asked him whether he stood by his statements in an October 19, 2022, deposition.

Sections of the deposition, in which Trump denied raping Carroll and said she was "not my type," were played for the jury earlier on Thursday.

"100%, yes," Trump answered, his voice a mix of confidence and umbrage.

His answer to Habba's second question — which asked why, during his deposition, he denied Carroll's allegations — was, "Yes. She said something I considered a false accusation—"

Everything after the "yes" was stricken by US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who's presiding over this trial and who also oversaw the 2023 rape-defamation trial that resulted in a $5 million verdict.

Habba's third and final direct question — asking whether he intended or ever told anyone to "hurt" Carroll back in June of 2019, when he first denied he'd raped her and said "she's not my type" — was similarly cut short by the judge. Carroll's attorneys have argued Trump should pay her millions of dollars in damages after his supporters ruined her reputation by calling her a liar.

"No," Trump answered. "I just wanted to defend myself and my family and, frankly, the presidency."

Again, everything Trump said after "no" was zapped from the record.

Instead of doing so on the stand, Trump was left to air personal grievances, insist on his innocence, and rail about how "This is not America" outside the hearing of the jury.

And he did plenty of that.

Three times — twice before his testimony and once afterward — Trump griped loudly about getting a raw deal from Carroll and the court system. But the jurors never heard it.

Shortly after the lunch break, Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, told the judge she'd just heard Trump audibly muttering from behind her that he planned to violate the judge's constraints on his testimony and continue to claim that he didn't sexually assault Carroll.

"Mr. Trump said under his breath that he will still deny it," Roberta Kaplan said.

"If I may, Your Honor—" began Habba, Trump's lead lawyer, though the judge quickly told her she "may not."

Then, minutes before his testimony, and with the jury still not in the courtroom, Trump piped up again.

"I never met the woman!" Trump insisted out loud from his seat at the defense table.

"I do not know who the woman is!" he complained.

"Mr. Trump," the judge interrupted. "Keep your voice down."

Roberta Kaplan, who's not related to the judge, was only allowed to ask Trump a limited number of questions in her cross-examination as well.

Trump confirmed he didn't attend Carroll's trial against him last spring, where the jury unanimously agreed Trump sexually assaulted Carroll in the mid-1990s. They found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation and awarded her $5 million.

Trump shook his head and pouted as Roberta Kaplan questioned him.

The defamation suit was first filed in 2019 but took years to get to trial over legal questions of whether Trump could be held liable for statements he made while he was president.

By the time it made it to a jury, the trial over the second lawsuit — which included defamation claims for comments Trump made after he left the presidency — had already been completed.

The judge made a series of rulings based on a legal doctrine called "collateral estoppel," which basically meant the jury's findings in last year's trial were binding on this year's trial. He concluded that Trump was liable for defaming Carroll when he called her a liar in 2019 and that the second trial would be only on damages.

The limited scope of the trial also meant that Trump and his attorneys were forbidden from continuing to argue in court that Carroll had lied. Regardless, Trump has continued to hold press conferences and post on social media that he "never met" Carroll and "had no idea who this woman is" even though they were photographed together in the 1980s and he was found liable for sexually abusing her in a federal court case.

Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll
Trump and Carroll.Getty Images

Before Trump took the stand Monday afternoon, the judge explained to him that the earlier jury verdict couldn't be relitigated, noting the "very well-established legal principle in this country that you do not get a do-over."

The judge asked Habba a series of questions to ensure Trump's testimony wouldn't veer outside the bounds of his rulings.

"I want to hear everything he is going to say," the judge told her.

Habba offered to clarify the few questions she planned to ask Trump — but admitted she didn't have a "crystal ball."

"I am not testifying for my client, Your Honor," she said.

Carroll's attorneys expressed concern that Trump would trample past the scope of Habba's questions anyway. The judge noted that Carroll, when she was on the witness stand, was forbidden from answering questions about the sexual assault as well.

"Mr. Trump can't offer evidence or argument to sexual assault," the judge said. "Carroll didn't testify that either."

Trump gave a parting shot on his way out

After Trump's brief testimony, the defense rested. The judge instructed the jury that closing arguments would start and finish Friday morning and that they'd begin deliberations on Friday afternoon.

The jurors left the courtroom. So did the judge.

But on his way out — walking the length of the courtroom, trailed by a contingent of Secret Service agents and US Marshalls — Trump couldn't resist a parting shot.

"It's not America," Trump griped as he walked, his eyes scanning the courtroom audience, which was filled mostly with news reporters.

"Not America," he added as he reached the door. "This is not America."

As Carroll and Roberta Kaplan then left the courtroom, Business Insider asked them whether they had any response to Trump's parting remark. They did not.

Read the original article on Business Insider