Trump’s lawyer presses E Jean Carroll on details of alleged rape

E Jean Carroll (centre) arrives for the first day of the sexual assault and defamation civil lawsuit she has brought against former president Donald Trump at a federal court house in New York, New York, US, 25 April 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / JUSTIN LANE)

A lawyer for Donald Trump pressed the former president’s rape accuser in the trial of her lawsuit against him, calling the details of her claims ‘odd' and suggesting she had made up the attack to sell a book.

“Using your own words, the facts you allege in the story you’ve told here are odd,” attorney Joe Tacopina said as he started his cross-examination of E Jean Carroll in Manhattan federal court on Thursday, asking if she agreed.

“Yes, certain parts of the story are difficult to conceive of,” said Carroll (79). But, she added, “those are the facts”.

Trump (76) has long argued that Carroll’s allegation that he raped her in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in the 1990s was impossible to believe given her age and because she was not his “type”. He also argues there would have been witnesses and that she would have screamed, or reported him to the police afterward.

Carroll says that the sixth-floor lingerie department where she alleges the attack occurred was unstaffed and all but deserted on the midweek evening when they were there, and that she didn’t report the incident because she was ashamed and because she feared Trump would try to destroy her if she spoke up.

Selling the Book

Carroll returned to the witness stand a little early after a short break and found herself directly opposite Tacopina, who was already standing at the lawyer’s podium to begin his examination. The two stared at each other briefly before Tacopina turned and began pacing the courtroom.

He started out with a “good morning” and, when Carroll didn’t immediately respond, repeated it more loudly. She returned the formality.

Tacopina, who launched his cross by displaying the cover of Carroll’s book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, asked why she didn’t go public before Trump was elected in 2016. He suggested she timed her allegation with the publication of the 2019 book.

Carroll said she waited because her mother was elderly and she didn’t want to distress her. Tacopina then asked why she didn’t immediately go public after her mother died.

“I was in deep, painful mourning,” Carroll said.

“It had nothing to do with the fact that the book wasn’t ready yet?” he asked.

“I hadn’t conceived writing a book at that point,” she said.

Inspired by Weinstein Expose

“You thought that adding to your book the story about being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump in a dressing room in the department store would be a major element of your book, right?” Tacopina asked Carroll.

“I thought people would be interested. It turned out I was wrong,” she said, referring to the book’s poor sales.

Carroll testified that the 2017 New York Times expose on the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s assaults on women inspired her to add Trump’s alleged attack to the book she was already writing about her relationship with men. She agreed with Tacopina that her book pitch, which mentioned only Trump, helped her secure a $70,000 advance from the publisher but said it wasn’t all about the money.

“It caused me to realize that staying silent does not work,” she told the jury.

What Jury Must Decide

The jury of six men and three women will decide whether Trump is liable for sexually assaulting Carroll and then defaming her as recently as last year by claiming on social media that she fabricated the attack to sell the book. If they find him liable, the jurors will then decide how much he must pay Carroll, depending on the harm they find she suffered.

Carroll, a journalist and former Elle magazine advice columnist, told the panel on Wednesday that Elle fired her after she wrote about the alleged rape.

A spokesperson for Hearst, which publishes Elle in the US, didn’t respond to a request for comment on her testimony.

During direct questioning by her lawyer earlier on Thursday, Carroll was asked about a claim she made in her book that former CBS Chairman Les Moonves also sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, an allegation he has denied.

Carroll told the jurors that despite his denial, she didn’t sue him for defamation, as she did Trump, because “he did not defame me. He didn’t call me a liar.”

A lawyer who has represented Moonves in the past didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the testimony.

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

(With assistance from Patricia Hurtado, Gerry Smith and Christopher Palmeri.)


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