E Jean Carroll lawyer calls Trump a ‘witness against himself’ as defence slammed as ‘harebrained’

While Trump himself declined to testify at the trial - or to attend at all - Carroll’s attorney seized on his October video deposition in the case to crush his credibility

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Monday 08 May 2023 16:04 EDT

Related video: Trump suggests stars have committed sexual assault for a ‘million years’

Attorneys for E Jean Carroll described Donald Trump as a “witness against himself” in closing arguments at the civil rape trial against the former president, whose defence was slammed as “harebrained” by a lawyer representing the 79-year-old writer.

Lawyer Roberta Kaplan began her closing on Monday in Manhattan court by calling Ms Carroll’s testimony “credible,” “consistent,” and “powerful,”

“You saw for yourself. E Jean Carroll wasn’t hiding anything,” Ms Kaplan told the jury.

Ms Carroll sued Mr Trump in 2019 and 2022, claiming that he raped her in a fitting room at the Berghof Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s. She argues that he later defamed her in his aggressive rejections of her claims. Mr Trump has denied all wrongdoing.

While Mr Trump himself declined to testify at the trial - or to attend at all - Ms Kaplan seized on his October video deposition in the case to crush his credibility.

She pointed to the moment Mr Trump mixed up Ms Carroll and his then-wife Marla Maples in a photo, saying he “pointed to Ms Carroll, the woman he supposedly said was not his type”.

“He only corrected himself when his own lawyer” corrected him, she added.

Mr Trump “did [what] he always does” when caught doing something wrong, Ms Kaplan said.

“He made up an excuse,” claiming that it was “blurry,” the lawyer added.

Referencing the infamous Access Hollywood tape that emerged just before the 2016 election, Ms Kaplan said, “He grabbed her, using his words, ‘by the p****.’”

“He didn’t even bother to show up in person,” Ms Kaplan said about Mr Trump choosing not to attend the trial.

“In a very real sense, Trump is a witness against himself,” the attorney said about Mr Trump’s video deposition.

She said Mr Trump “knows what he did. He knows he sexually assaulted E Jean Carroll”.

Ms Kaplan laid out a timeline of the alleged attack during her closing argument, saying that it happened while Ms Carroll was hosting Ask E Jean on America’s Talking between 1994 and 1996.

America’s Talking was run by Roger Ailes, who later served as the CEO and chairman of Fox News before he was ousted following a series of sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Ms Kaplan noted that at the time of the alleged rape by Mr Trump, Ms Carroll was wearing a wool dress with tights, but she wasn’t wearing a coat, indicating what kind of weather there was on that day, according to Law & Crime.

Ms Carroll said that it must have taken place after her friend Lisa Birnbach had published her story on Mar-a-Lago, published in February of 1996.

The writer said she thinks it happened on a Thursday as the department store was open late.

“She was trying to come to grips with the fact that she was being attacked,” Ms Kaplan said during her closing argument on Monday.

The lawyer noted that her client remembers the attack in “great detail”.

Ms Kaplan spoke to the jury about why they showed Mr Ailes’s interview with Mr Trump from the 1990s.

She said that Mr Ailes’s talk show on the shortlived cable news network America’s Talking was recorded in the same building, and broadcast on the same network, as Ms Carroll’s programme on the channel – Ask E Jean.

Ms Kaplan noted that Mr Trump would have seen the end of Ms Carroll’s programme if he watched his appearance on Mr Ailes’s show unless he changed the channel at the exact right moment.

The attorney for Ms Carroll noted that a former executive at the Berghof Goodman said that there weren’t many people in the lingerie department on Thursday nights, particularly in the early spring.

Regarding Ms Carroll telling Mr Trump to try on the lingerie, Ms Kaplan said, “I think we understand what was happening. This was a combination of humour and flirting,” according to Law & Crime.

“It was a joke. Ms Carroll could see the joke in her mind’s eye,” Ms Kaplan added. “The point was that it was funny.”

Speaking about what Mr Trump is alleged to have done to the writer, Ms Kaplan said, “He grabbed her by the p****, or vagina — I’m sorry for my language”.

Ms Kaplan added that Mr Trump verbally attacked Ms Carroll during his time in the White House after she went public with her allegation following the eruption of the MeToo movement.

The lawyer said her client started sleeping with a loaded gun in her bed as she was worried about the repercussions of going public, according to Law & Crime.

Ms Kaplan quoted psychological expert Dr Leslie Lebowitz, who was hired by the Carroll legal team to testify at the trial.

“People have really strange, really unexpected reactions to traumatic situations all the time,” she said.

Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina repeatedly questioned Ms Carroll about her not screaming during the alleged assault.

Ms Kaplan said that screaming “is one of the least likely things to actually occur”.

The lawyer said her client remembers the assault in “vivid, technicolour detail.”

“She remembers the sound of Trump’s heavy breathing as he was facing the wall next to her neck,” she said. “She remembers certain things vividly, and other things, not so much.”

“The psychological expert in this case believes Ms Carroll,” she added.

Speaking about her view of Mr Trump’s defence in the case, Ms Kaplan said, “If a woman is going to accuse a man of sexual assault, she must play the part”.

“That’s just plain wrong,” she added.

Ms Kaplan called out what she said was Mr Trump’s “Big Lie” in his defence – his argument that Ms Carroll, witnesses Lisa Birnbach, and Carol Martin are all not telling the truth.

“I’m sorry. Seriously? That’s just ridiculous,” Ms Kaplan said.

Mr Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen are also often referred to as the “Big Lie”.

Ms Kaplan said that for Mr Trump to win this case, the jury will have to find that Ms Carroll, Ms Birnbach, and Ms Martin all lied under oath.

“Does that make any sense at all, or does that suggest that there is one person here who’s lying — and that that person is Donald Trump?” the attorney asked.

Ms Kaplan showed a chart of the allegations by Ms Carroll, Natasha Stoynoff, and Jessica Leeds, which showed that they all took place in a “semi-public place,” that Mr Trump grabbed them “suddenly,” and that he later said they were “not my type”.

The attorney also noted that none of the women screamed, according to Law & Crime.

Ms Kaplan told the jury that for Mr Trump to win, “You have to conclude that Donald Trump, the nonstop liar, is the only person in here telling the truth”.

Ms Kaplan said the Carroll legal team wouldn’t be requesting a specific damage award.

“For E Jean Carroll, this lawsuit is not about the money,” the attorney said, adding that it’s about getting her “name back”.

Carroll lawyer Michael Ferrara began his rebuttal of Mr Tacopina’s closing argument by telling the jury that Mr Tacopina is a “very good lawyer”.

But he said that Mr Tacopina offered arguments instead of evidence, before slamming his comments on respecting the legal system “when his own client didn’t have enough respect” to attend the trial.

“He never looked you in the eye and denied raping E Jean Carroll,” Mr Ferrara said about Mr Trump.

Mr Ferrara said that Ms Birnbach and Ms Martin wouldn’t gamble their professional credibility on a “harebrained” scheme to take down Mr Trump, according to Law & Crime.

He also scoffed at the idea that the trio “modelled their secret, secret scheme on one of the most popular shows on television,” referring to Law & Order SVU.

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