By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Monday dismissed Donald Trump’s defamation counterclaim against the writer E. Jean Carroll, handing a fresh legal defeat to the former president as he seeks another White House term.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said Carroll’s statements, made on CNN the day after she won a $5 million jury verdict against Trump for defamation and sexual abuse, were at least “substantially true,” and Trump failed to show she made them with actual malice.
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said “We strongly disagree with the flawed decision and will be filing an appeal shortly.”
Trump, 77, filed his counterclaim in a second defamation lawsuit by Carroll, 79, who is seeking at least $10 million.
A trial is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2024.
Trump is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
He has also pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in three separate indictments, including over his effort to reverse his 2020 election loss and his role in events leading to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump sued Carroll after the former Elle magazine columnist said “oh yes, he did; oh yes, he did” when asked on CNN about the jury’s finding that he had not raped her.
He also objected to Carroll recounting how she had told his lawyer “he did it and you know it” soon after the verdict was read.
Kaplan had previously found convincing proof that Trump “deliberately and forcibly” penetrated Carroll’s vagina with his fingers, causing immediate pain and long-lasting emotional and psychological harm.
The verdict reflected that “Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her, albeit digitally rather than with his penis,” Kaplan wrote on Monday. “Thus, it establishes against him the substantial truth of Ms. Carroll’s ‘rape’ accusations.”
Kaplan also struck some of Trump’s affirmative defenses, including that he had “absolute presidential immunity” and that Carroll was ineligible for punitive damages.
Roberta Kaplan, who represents Carroll and is not related to the judge, said she was pleased with Monday’s decision, which means the January trial “shouldn’t take very long to complete.”
Both lawsuits stemmed from Trump’s denials that he forced himself upon and raped Carroll in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.
Carroll is suing over Trump’s comments in June 2019 that he had not known her, that she was not his “type,” and that she lied to boost sales of her memoir.
The $5 million verdict stemmed from a similar denial in an October 2022 social media post, where Trump branded the incident a “Hoax and a lie” and a “complete Scam.”
Carroll amended her lawsuit after Trump disparaged her as a “whack job” in a CNN town hall following the verdict.
The lawsuit is Carroll v. Trump, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 20-07311.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool and Howard Goller)