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Former President Donald Trump briefly testified on Thursday in the civil trial regarding E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him.
Following his inauguration, Trump encountered a limited number of inquiries from his attorney, Alina Habba.
According to courtroom reporters, Habba inquired whether Trump maintained his denial of the alleged sexual assault by Carroll, which he affirmed. When she inquired whether he refuted the accusations, Trump responded, “Precisely correct.”
“She said something. I consider it a false accusation,” he said, an answer Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the case, struck from the record, citing the previous trial’s verdict that Trump had in fact sexually abused Carroll — and the judge’s specific rulings that Trump was barred from trying to re-litigate that issue in this trial.
Habba then asked if Trump wanted to hurt Carroll, to which he replied, “No. I wanted to defend myself, my family, and frankly, the presidency.” Kaplan also struck that from the record.
According to legal reporter Adam Klasfeld, Trump “sneered at the spectators in the gallery” on his way out of the courtroom and said, “It’s not America. It’s not America. This is not America.”
Judge Kaplan reprimanded Trump for speaking loudly and interrupting his attorney before he testified, “I never met this woman.”
Last week, Trump’s lawyer and spokeswoman clashed with the judge.
Trump was in the courtroom for the start of a civil trial for Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him. The trial will ascertain the amount that Trump must compensate Carroll in damages, following a previous judgment of being held liable for sexually abusing the columnist and being mandated to pay her $5 million.
According to CNN, a dispute arose between U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, a Clinton appointee, and Habba when he denied her request to delay the trial so that Trump could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral. When Habba insisted on a temporary adjournment of the trial to accommodate Trump’s later presence, a disagreement ensued between her and Kaplan.
The judge rejected her claims, asserting that the trial’s proceedings had already been set. Kaplan further conveyed that he would not entertain any additional arguments from her regarding the matter.
“When the ruling is made that is the end not the beginning of argument,” Kaplan said at one point — perhaps as a nod to the lengthy arguments Judge Arthur Engoron allowed in Trump’s recent New York civil fraud trial.
Habba requested the judge grant an adjournment Thursday, so Trump does not have to decide whether to be in court at trial or at his mother-in-law’s funeral.
“I am asking you, sir, now for a one-day adjournment of this trial” Thursday to “allow my clients to be there so that he can be present for every day of this trial as he has a right to be,” Habba said.
“I am not stopping him from being there,” Kaplan said.
“No, you’re stopping him from being here, Your Honor,” Habba responded.
“The argument is over,” Kaplan said, declining to change his previous ruling.
Kaplan and Trump also had some exchanges during the fiery hearing. At one point, Kaplan warned Trump that he would lose his court privileges if he continued to disparage Carroll to his attorneys throughout the trial.
“Mr. Trump has the right to be here,” Kaplan said Wednesday. “And that right can be forfeited if disruptive … if he disregards” court orders.
“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” Kaplan later said.
Before making these remarks, Kaplan had earlier in the day advised Trump to “keep his voice down.”
Shawn Crowley, Carroll’s attorney, claimed to the judge that she overheard Trump disparaging Carroll during her testimony.
“Mr. Trump has been loudly saying things, including that the witness is lying and noting that she has suddenly got her memory back,” Crowley told Kaplan after jurors were released from the room. “It’s loud enough that some of us here are hearing it.”
“I’m going to ask Mr. Trump to take special care to keep his voice down in conferring with his attorneys,” Kaplan said.
Despite the warning, Trump persisted in criticizing Carroll throughout the testimony, which led Crowley to inform Kaplan prior to lunch that she could still hear Trump insulting Carroll.
Kaplan subsequently made a threat to remove Trump from the meeting.
“Mr. Trump, I know you would like me to do that,” he said. “I know you would. You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently.”
On Tuesday, Kaplan reiterated his earlier warnings that the proceedings must not escalate by instructing the parties involved not to communicate with the jury “directly or indirectly.”
Last year, in a separate trial, a judge found Trump guilty of sexually abusing Carroll in the mid-1990s and of defaming her in 2022 for allegedly fabricating stories about the assault.