Trump loses ‘immunity’ appeal in E Jean Carroll defamation case

A trial is scheduled to begin next week. His attorneys have suggested appealing to the Supreme Court

Alex Woodward
Monday 08 January 2024 23:32 GMT
Donald Trump's lawyer says they're 'prepared' to go to trial in Carroll case

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Louise Thomas

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Donald Trump lost yet another attempt to avoid a trial stemming from a defamation lawsuit from E Jean Carroll, after a federal appeals court panel in New York refused to rehear his “immunity” defence one week before the trial is set to begin.

A single-page order from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Monday declined to hear his request for the case to be heard in front of the court’s full 13-member panel. Mr Trump’s next option is to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The trial is scheduled to begin in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on 15 January.

A federal jury already awarded Ms Carroll $5m earlier last year after finding Mr Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation. A second trial from another lawsuit is set to determine how much more he owes for denying her allegations while he was in office.

Ms Carroll has argued that Mr Trump’s statements accusing her of lying – claims he made in 2019 while president – have damaged her reputation and her career. He claims “presidential immunity” from the litigation.

An earlier trial verdict “establishes … the fact that Mr Trump ‘raped her’, albeit digitally rather than with his penis,” in a department store dressing room in the 1990s, according to Judge Kaplan’s ruling.

The jurors then determined that Mr Trump defamed her by falsely denying her accusations.

In September, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan issued a partial summary judgment finding that the former president made defamatory statements with “actual malice” about Ms Carroll in 2019 after she went public with claims he had raped her decades earlier.

E Jean Carroll is pictured leaving Manhattan federal court on 23 October 2023
E Jean Carroll is pictured leaving Manhattan federal court on 23 October 2023 (AP)

Last month, the federal appeals court in New York determined that Mr Trump can’t use “presidential immunity” as a defence. His attorney Alina Habba then requested that the court give him another 90 days to consider his options – “including pursuing the appeal in the Supreme Court if necessary” – until all appeals are exhausted.

Within the last week, Mr Trump has shared dozens of messages, video clips and social media posts to his Truth Social in an apparent attempt to undermine her claims.

Should he appeal to the nation’s highest court, the justices could be faced with several monumental constitutional cases in Mr Trump’s growing mountain of legal obstacles he seeks the Republican nomination for president. He has denied wrongdoing in all of them.

The decision from appeals court judges on Monday comes just hours before his attorneys argue he should also be immune from criminal prosecution for alleged crimes committed while in office, a defence at the centre of a sprawling federal case accusing the former president of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, culminating in a mob of his supporters storming the halls of Congress to do it by force.

Closing arguments in another civil trial on fraud allegations will also begin this week, with a final judgment from the judge overseeing the case due by the end of the month. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing Mr Trump and the chief associates in his family business, is seeking tens of millions of dollars in so-called “ill-gotten gains” that could upend his real estate empire.

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