Donald Trump’s legal problems are growing deeper.
Yesterday, a jury found the former president liable for the sexual abuse and defamation of the magazine writer E. Jean Carroll, ordering him to pay her $5 million. The case was a civil trial, which means that Trump is not subject to prison time. But the verdict indicates that jurors believed Carroll’s claim that Trump assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.
Carroll also accused Trump of raping her. The jury ruled against Carroll on that count, finding insufficient evidence to support her allegation.
Today’s newsletter will walk through the details of the case, the reactions to the verdict and the potential political consequences.
At the heart of the lawsuit was Carroll’s account of her encounter with Trump, which she described in detail during the trial. She said that she saw him outside the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan nearly three decades ago, and that he had asked her to help find a gift for a female friend. The two bantered while walking through the store, and he asked her to try on a gray-blue bodysuit from the lingerie section. She declined and told him to put it on instead. Trump then motioned her into a dressing room, where he threw her against the wall, used his weight to pin her down and raped her, according to Carroll.
The episode “left me unable to ever have a romantic life again,” Carroll said. (She was able to sue after so much time had passed under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law that provides victims of abuse a one-time opportunity to sue the accused.)
To make her case, Carroll and her lawyers relied on Trump’s history of comments denigrating women. They pointed to the “Access Hollywood” tape, released during the 2016 election, on which he had boasted that he could grab women by their genitals without their permission. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said. He stood by those remarks during a deposition in the Carroll case.
Carroll’s lawyers argued that Trump’s comments showed he was capable of the assault that she had accused him of. The jury, composed of six men and three women, concluded that the allegations of sexual abuse, but not of rape, were more likely to be true than untrue, holding Trump liable.
Trump denied the accusations. He did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses as a defense in the trial. He previously told reporters that the allegations could not be true because Carroll was not his “type.”
Trump promised to appeal the verdict. “I have absolutely no idea who this woman is,” Trump posted yesterday on Truth Social, his social media platform. “This verdict is a disgrace — a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!”
Trump is set to appear live on a CNN town hall tonight, where he will take questions from voters.
Many of Trump’s political rivals and opponents, including Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, stayed quiet about the verdict. Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and author running for president, defended Trump: “I’ll say what everyone else is privately thinking: If the defendant weren’t named Donald Trump, would there even be a lawsuit?”
One 2024 candidate did criticize Trump. “The jury verdict should be treated with seriousness and is another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump,” Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas’s former governor and a longtime Trump critic, said.
The political impact
It is not clear how the verdict will affect Trump’s presidential campaign. His poll numbers against DeSantis, his main potential rival in the Republican primary, improved even after a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records.
But Trump’s advisers are not making a similar prediction after the Carroll verdict, my colleagues Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan wrote.
Trump is almost certain to confront more legal problems before the 2024 election. The Manhattan trial could start as soon as next January. Trump is also under investigation for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and for his handling of classified documents.
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Best in show
Buddy Holly, a petit basset griffon Vendéen, took the top prize at the Westminster Dog Show. He’s the first of his breed — better known as P.B.G.V., because that is easier to say — to do so. (Second place went to Rummie, a Pekingese whose breeder and handler, David Fitzpatrick, has produced two previous best in show winners, including Wasabi, the 2021 champion.)
“I have dreamed of this since I was 9 years old,” said Buddy Holly’s owner and trainer, Janice Hayes. She said the dog was “the epitome of a show dog; nothing bothers him.” Now he gets to relax and go back to his daily life, which involves hanging out with “his girlfriends,” Hayes said.