Trump returns to court, could take the stand in defamation trial

Former President Donald Trump returned to a New York courtroom Thursday to attend his defamation trial and possibly testify with millions of dollars likely on the line, two days after he won the New Hampshire presidential primary.

Trump could be called by his own attorneys to take the stand in the case brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll. He had planned to testify earlier in the week, but trial proceedings were delayed for several days after a COVID-19 scare.

Carroll’s lawyers called their final witness and wrapped their case Thursday morning. They presented new evidence, including footage of a deposition Trump gave in a separate civil fraud case. The portion of the video showed Trump bragging about having $400 million in cash, and saying his “brand” is worth billions of dollars.

The lawsuit centers on defamatory statements made by Trump, in which he denied sexually assaulting Carroll and said he had never met her. Trump has already twice been found liable for defamation, once by the judge in this case and once by a jury that also found he was liable for the sexual abuse described by Carroll.

Former President Donald Trump waves as he departs for his defamation trial in New York on Jan. 25, 2024.
Former President Donald Trump waves as he departs for his defamation trial in New York on Jan. 25, 2024.

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

The advice columnist said that in the mid-1990s, they bumped into each other in the high-end New York department store Bergdorf Goodman and walked through the store. Carroll said he had asked her for help choosing a present for a young woman, and Carroll said what started with fun banter turned into a nightmare when Trump attacked her in a dressing room.

Carroll has twice sued Trump over defamatory statements he made in 2019 and 2022. Trump has continuously and frequently denied her allegations, even on the day a federal jury awarded Carroll $5 million in May 2023. 

The jury in the current trial has been shown threats of murder and rape that Carroll has received since 2019 when she went public with her story, in the form of emails, texts and tweets, including one message that read: “I’m very sorry, my friend said he wants to kill you and I cannot stop him.”

Trump’s ongoing denials are an issue in the trial, where he has denounced the case and its outcome within earshot of the jury. Carroll’s attorneys have said they want an award that will “make him stop.”

As they wrapped their case on Thursday, Carroll’s legal team showed some of his deposition in this case, when he insisted everything he has said about Carroll is true.

Fin Gómez contributed reporting.

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