In his first media appearance since being found liable for sexual abuse and defamation to the tune of $5 million, former President Donald Trump defensively lashed out once again, as he typically does when he disagrees with something or his back is against the wall politically.
“This woman — I don’t know her. I never met her. I have no idea who she is,” Trump claimed of the writer E. Jean Carroll, who brought the civil suit against him in New York, during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire.
Carroll accused Trump of raping her in the fitting room of an upscale Manhattan department store in the 1990s. A jury stopped short of saying it believed there was a preponderance of evidence to show rape occurred, but did say there was enough for battery and sexual abuse.
Clearly, the whopping sum awarded to Carroll has not cowed Trump, who mocked Carroll, referring to her as a “whack job.” Trump was seen in a picture with Carroll, one that came up in a taped deposition that was shown to the New York jury. Trump said Carroll was not his “type,” but when shown the photo, he confused Carroll for his second wife, Marla Maples.
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After the New York decision, Trump called the verdict a “disgrace” and the “continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time” from a “Trump-hating, Clinton-appointed judge” in a “Trump-hating area,” where it would be “impossible,” he claimed, to “get a fair trial.”
It’s also the city where Trump was born, raised and spent the bulk of his adult life.
Trump vowed an appeal, something he said he would do even before there was a verdict.
This civil trial is not the only case against him. Trump is also facing a criminal indictment in New York stemming from hush-money payments to a porn actress, as well as three other criminal investigations related to his taking of classified documents from the White House to his home in Florida, his pressure campaign to overturn the results in Georgia and, of course, his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
During the unwieldy, more-than-an-hour long live town hall, in which Trump often talked past and over CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins, whom he called “nasty” while she pressed him on a question, Trump lied repeatedly.
He did so on multiple issues in multiple ways, including:
continuing to claim the 2020 presidential election he lost was “rigged” (when it was not and that’s been proven over and over),
that former Vice President Pence had the authority to send the election back to the states on Jan. 6 (which he did not),
that Pence wasn’t under threat that day (which he was),
that Trump requested 10,000 troops to secure the Capitol on Jan. 6 (didn’t happen),
that he had the right to take classified documents to his Florida home (he didn’t) and more.
Many in the audience appeared to be friendly to Trump and laughed at his retorts. The audience, CNN said beforehand, was made up of Republicans and Republican-leaning unaffiliated New Hampshire voters.
And while the GOP base continues to have positive feelings toward the former president, Trump has proved toxic with independents and persuadable voters. That’s been the case in poll after poll. But beyond polling, Republicans have underperformed in the last three election cycles with Trump-endorsed candidates acting as an albatross for the GOP.
Going on CNN to do this town hall was a choice by a campaign that understands these numbers. But Trump showed little, if any, ability to reach out beyond those who already love him.
During this town hall, for example, in addition to the lies, he:
was unable to criticize Russia or its leader Vladimir Putin or say if he wants Ukraine to win the war;
wouldn’t be specific about abortion;
said the debt ceiling should not be used as leverage to negotiate spending cuts while he was president, but said Wednesday night that’s different now because he’s not president;
defended people who participated in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, saying he’ll pardon many of them;
doubled down on his crude Access Hollywood comments about stars being able to do what they want with women, and more.
But who would expect any different of the 76-year-old who has made his political career on bluster and provocation?
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