Trump’s lawyer questions billionaire Democrat’s funding of rape accuser’s lawsuit

E Jean Carroll. (Photo: Ilya S Savenok / Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s attorney questioned the credibility and motives of a New York writer who accused the former president of sexual assault, after discovering her lawsuit was being bankrolled by the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn who is also a major donor to the Democratic Party. 

Trump first learnt of the financing by Reid Hoffman in a letter from E Jean Carroll’s legal team April 10, seemingly contradicting a response Carroll gave on the topic during her deposition last year, Trump attorney Alina Habba said in a New York court filing Thursday.

At the deposition, Carroll said she had a contingency-fee arrangement for paying her lawyers and answered “no” when asked if she was receiving outside funding for the litigation, which began in November 2019. Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said in her letter to Habba that her client remembered just recently that she had been told at some point about outside funding by a nonprofit.

Habba said she didn’t buy that. She called the funding a sign of bias that raises questions about Carroll’s motives in bringing the suit.

“The proposition that plaintiff has suddenly ‘recollected’ the source of her funding for this high-profile litigation — which has spanned four years, spawned two separate actions, and been before numerous state, federal, and appellate courts — is not only preposterous, it is demonstrably false,” Habba said.

The disclosure complicates a case that was already politically charged and is set to go to trial on April 25, even as Trump campaigns to return to the White House in 2024. Trump has long denied Carroll’s rape allegation and claimed that her lawsuit — as well as the unrelated criminal indictment of Trump in Manhattan earlier this month and other probes into his conduct in Georgia and Washington — are part of a partisan effort to take him down.

The press office of venture capital firm Greylock Partners, where Hoffman is a partner, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a Thursday filing responding to Habba, Kaplan said the funding issue is “plainly irrelevant to Carroll’s claims” against Trump, who is financing his legal defences with money donated by his own supporters to a political action committee. Kaplan said Carroll doesn’t have that luxury.

“Carroll is not a wealthy person,” Kaplan told the court in her letter. “Trump, by contrast, claims to be a billionaire who has reportedly used his own PAC funding to pay for his personal attorneys.”

There is no requirement for a party to a lawsuit to disclose their financing, and Kaplan said that the line of questioning at Carroll’s deposition was inappropriate.

‘Some funding’

Kaplan acknowledged Hoffman provided some funding for the case, but that it wasn’t secured until almost a year after Carroll filed her lawsuit. Carroll wasn’t aware of the outside financing at the time of the deposition and her answer was accurate, Kaplan said.

Carroll wasn’t involved in the talks with a nonprofit tied to Hoffman, Kaplan said in her letter.

“We informed Trump’s counsel that Carroll has never met and has never been party to any communications (written or oral) with anyone associated with the nonprofit,” Kaplan said in her letter.

Kaplan said her team investigated Carroll’s response to the question during the deposition soon after it took place “to determine that Carroll had testified truthfully given her then-existing knowledge”. That only changed in recent days, she said.

“Last week, during the course of preparing for her testimony at trial, Carroll recollected additional information relating to the above exchange,” Kaplan said in the letter. “Accordingly, we promptly disclosed to Trump’s counsel that, while Carroll stands by her testimony about this being a contingency fee case, she now recalls that her counsel at some point secured additional funding from a nonprofit organization to cover certain expenses and fees.”

Habba argued in her letter that the trial should be delayed by one month and that she and her team should be allowed to investigate the funding issue. Alternatively, the court should give the jury an instruction about Carroll’s “wilful defiance of her discovery obligations”, Habba said.

Hoffman’s Donations

Habba said the financing is concerning because Hoffman has publicly stated his determination to use his money to avoid another Trump presidency. Trump is currently the leading contender for the 2024 Republican nomination.

Hoffman also gave $600,000 to a legal defence fund tied to Fusion GPS, which created a widely criticised report on Trump known as the Steele dossier before the 2016 election, Habba said in her filing.

The late disclosure of Hoffman’s funding for the Carroll case “strikes at the heart of one of the key aspects of plaintiff’s defamation claim”, Habba said. She said that was whether the lawsuit “is a ‘hoax’ that was commenced and/or continued to advance a political agenda”.

Carroll alleges Trump assaulted her in a department store dressing room in Manhattan after they ran into each other while shopping. She went public with her claim in 2019 and sued Trump for defamation when he called her a liar from the White House.

She has also sued him for battery under a new New York law that temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on decades-old assault claims. That’s the case set for trial this month.

The case is E Jean Carroll v Donald J Trump, 22-cv-10016, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


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