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Trump’s testimony in E Jean Carroll defamation case postponed due to potential Covid

The former president was expected to testify in federal court

Alex Woodward,Ariana Baio
Monday 22 January 2024 21:52 GMT
Donald Trump says he 'aced' cognitive test after Haley questions his mental fitness

The judge overseeing a defamation case against Donald Trump postponed trial proceedings on Monday after jurors and attorneys were potentially exposed to Covid-19.

The former president and E Jean Carroll had already arrived and were seated in a federal courtroom for the second week of a trial to determine how much Mr Trump owes Ms Carroll for defaming her after he was found liable for sexually abusing her. Mr Trump was expected to testify.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan said a juror on the nine-person panel reported feeling unwell while on the way to court this morning and directed the juror to go home and take a Covid test. At the same time, Mr Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said she was not feeling well and had a fever within the last 48 hours.

Ms Habba, who was not wearing a face covering while seated next to her client, asked the court to resume Mr Trump’s testimony on Wednesday, one day after the New Hampshire presidential primary election. Ms Carroll’s attorney opposed the request, saying they wanted to get the trial over with as quickly as possible.

On Monday afternoon, Judge Kaplan announced that the trial would resume on Wednesday morning.

He also denied Mr Trump’s demand for a mistrial, which Ms Habba requested while the jury was present and with Ms Carroll still on the witness stand last week. In letters to the judge over the weekend, attorneys for Ms Carroll called Ms Habba’s performance a “spectacle” and urged the judge to deny the request.

Ms Carroll had testified that she deleted threatening emails that she received in the wake of her allegations against Mr Trump, which Ms Habba claimed had violated evidence obligations.

“Plaintiff’s entire claim for emotional harm is undermined because it would show that Plaintiff was receiving death threats before President Trump ever spoke about her,” Ms Habba wrote in a court filing on 19 January.

A six-page response from Ms Carroll’s attorneys called Ms Habba’s motion and arguments “meritless”. Judge Kaplan is expected to issue a full written order rejecting the motion.

“That motion is going to be denied in all respects,” he said on Monday.

Ms Carroll’s legal team, however, does plan to introduce potentially defamatory statements from Mr Trump from his campaign events and press conferences over the past week, stressing to the jury that his false claims about her have continued despite last year’s jury decision against him.

“Such statements are of course relevant to the issue of punitive damages, as they illustrate that [Mr Trump] has no intention of ceasing his defamation campaign against Ms Carroll, even in the face of judicial proceedings in which his liability for defaming her is settled,” attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote on 20 January.

The jury in lower Manhattan will determine monetary damages owed to Ms Carroll, a former Elle magazine writer whom Mr Trump repeatedly defamed by calling her a liar and denying that he sexually assaulted her. Ms Carroll is seeking $10m in compensatory damages and punitive damages.

The facts in the case have already been established; Mr Trump is barred from disputing that he sexually abused her, leaving a narrow trial to determine how much he should pay, if anything.

Mr Trump, who has relied on his growing list of legal battles and courtroom appearances to benefit his campaign, sparred with the judge in the court last week, drawing a warning that he could be removed from the proceedings. He is not obligated to attend the trial, though he has repeatedly falsely asserted that he is “forced” into courtrooms away from his campaign.

Following Judge Kaplan’s warning, Mr Trump wrote on his Truth Social that he has an “obligation to be at every moment of this ridiculous trial because we have a seething and hostile” judge “who suffers from a major case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

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