Donald Trump back on trial, may testify in E. Jean Carroll case

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The trial in writer E. Jean Carroll’s latest civil case against Donald Trump resumes on Monday, with the prospect that the former U.S. president may for the first time testify in open court in the defamation case.

A nine-person jury is hearing evidence to determine how much Trump should pay Carroll for defaming her in June 2019, when he denied raping her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan.

Trump, 77, has consistently denied that anything happened, and accused Carroll, 80, of making up the incident to boost sales of her then-new memoir.

A different jury last May ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million over his similar October 2022 denial. Trump is appealing that verdict.

The trial is before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, who oversaw the earlier trial.

If he testifies, Trump will be forbidden from challenging Kaplan’s rulings that he defamed and sexually abused Carroll, which the judge said the first trial established. The only issue is how much money Trump must pay Carroll, if any.

Lawyers for Carroll argued this month that Trump’s recent behavior strongly suggested he might try to “sow chaos” if he testified, and might believe that doing so would help him.

Kaplan made a similar point on the trial’s second day, after a lawyer for Carroll told him that jurors might have overheard Trump loudly proclaim the trial a “witch hunt” and “con job.”

The judge warned Trump he might be ejected if it happened again.

“I would love it,” Trump said.

“I know you would,” Kaplan replied.

Trump, a Republican, has used his legal travails to promote his 2024 White House run, calling the cases part of a political vendetta and an abuse of the judicial system.

Last week, Trump shuttled between the Carroll trial and campaign events in New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Tuesday. The latest polling shows Trump widening his lead in New Hampshire.

Trump has separately pleaded not guilty in four federal and state criminal cases, including two claiming he tried illegally to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Carroll has already testified. She said Trump’s denials destroyed her reputation as a truth-telling journalist, with many now branding her a liar with her own political agenda.

Trump’s legal team has accused Carroll of seeking fame and adulation by coming forward, while becoming an advocate for women. Alina Habba, one of Trump’s lawyers, in a letter on Friday said that behavior conflicted with Carroll’s “affirmative, non-waivable duty” to lessen the harm from the defamation.

Carroll testified that she enjoyed the “warmth” from supporters, but had not sought fame.

Joshua Matz, one of her lawyers, in a letter on Sunday called it “offensive” for Trump to persist in asserting that Carroll should be “grateful to him” for defaming her.

A Northwestern University professor testified for Carroll that it would cost $7.3 million to $12.1 million to repair Trump’s damage to Carroll’s reputation.

Others who may also testify include former Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers and former New York TV news anchor Carol Martin, a friend of Carroll’s.

The case could go to the jury by mid-week.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Leslie Adler)