E. Jean Carroll v. Donald Trump: What we know about the defamation trial as jury selection begins

Gun Rights

The trial for E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against former President Donald Trump began on Tuesday. The former magazine columnist accused him of raping her in the 1990s and sued him after he claimed she lied about the allegations.

The trial started on Tuesday with jury selection — almost two weeks after Trump’s legal counsel asked the suit to be delayed following the former president’s indictment from a Manhattan grand jury. However, a judge denied the request, and the trial will proceed.


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Here’s what we know about the Carroll-Trump defamation case.

E. Jean Carroll
Former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll walks into Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, in New York. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in a trial over Carroll’s claim that former President Donald Trump raped her nearly three decades ago in a department store dressing room.

What are Carroll’s allegations against Trump?

Carroll alleged that Trump raped her after they saw each other at the Bergdorf Goodman store in New York City in the 1990s. She first published her allegations in The Cut as part of her book, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal.

In the article, Carroll said that Trump convinced her to assist him in picking out a gift, and the two went to the lingerie department. After convincing her to go to the dressing room, Carroll said, Trump pushed her against the wall before groping and raping her.

Carroll said she told two friends but did not tell law enforcement. Both women later corroborated the story.

Trump has denied the allegations multiple times. He said in 2019, while president, that Carroll was “totally lying” and described her as “not my type.”

He also dismissed a photo that showed the two of them at a party years ago. He told reporters, “Standing with coat on in a line — give me a break — with my back to the camera. I have no idea who she is.”

What lawsuits are involved in the trial?

The civil battery and defamation trial that began Tuesday involves two lawsuits.

In 2022, Carroll filed a lawsuit under New York’s Adult Survivors Act. The act gave New York residents over 18 a window of one year to sue those they allege sexually assaulted them, regardless of the statute of limitations. Carroll also sued Trump for defamation over comments he made last year.

In October 2022, Trump called the case a “complete con job,” and he called the New York legal system a “broken disgrace.” He has used those descriptions in several other legal scandals in recent years.

Carroll’s other lawsuit was filed in 2019.

The author sued Trump in November 2019. She said the former president defamed her by saying she lied and by claiming that her rape allegations were motivated by politics and money.

Trump and Carroll agreed on March 17 to combine two defamation lawsuits that she filed against him into one single trial. However, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied the parties’ request on March 20, stating that the U.S. Court of Appeals has not yet ruled on whether Trump made defaming comments toward Carroll while he was president.

Under federal law, federal employees are protected from being sued individually for the things that they say or do within the scope of their employment. Kaplan ruled in 2020 that Trump being the president did not protect him in this case. However, an appeals court is waiting to issue a ruling on whether to uphold that decision.

Election 2024 Republicans
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis, Friday, April 14, 2023. The opening phase of the Republican presidential primary has largely centered on Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ escalating collision. But a new wave of GOP White House hopefuls will begin entering the race as soon as next week following a monthslong lull.

What can the jury expect to see?

Trump does not have to testify in the trial, which is set to take place over the next two weeks, but he could choose to do so. However, he has indicated he may not even appear at the trial.

In February, Trump said he was willing to provide a DNA sample to New York prosecutors in exchange for a copy of the laboratory report containing genetic material from the clothes Carroll wore on the day of the alleged assault.

Kaplan also ruled in March that an Access Hollywood tape would be allowed to play in court. In the tape, Trump made highly criticized comments and said that fame gave men license to grope women. The judge also rejected Trump’s effort to block Carroll from calling two female witnesses who had accused Trump of assaulting them in the years before he became president.

“In other words,” Kaplan said, “Ms. Carroll offers the evidence to show that Mr. Trump has a propensity for such behavior.”


What happens if Trump loses?

The case is civil, not criminal, but there are high stakes for the former president. If Carroll wins, it will be the first time that Trump has been held legally responsible for sexual assault despite dozens of women accusing him of that and other sexual misconduct over the years.

While he will not face jail time, the jury could rule that Trump has to pay Carroll in damages, potentially millions of dollars. Carroll said in the lawsuit she is seeking monetary damages but did not specify an amount.

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