Former President Donald Trump took the stand very briefly Thursday in the defamation damages trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll after having spent weeks lobbing personal insults against her on social media and stages around the country.
Trump was sworn in as the second witness for the defense in the trial, which will determine how much money he owes the advice columnist for defamation and sexual abuse. A separate jury at the same courthouse decided last year that Trump was liable for the conduct.
An attorney for the former president, Alina Habba, only had a small handful of questions before handing Trump over for cross-examination. She asked Trump to confirm that he stood behind his 2022 deposition, clips of which had been shown for jurors. He responded that he did “100 percent.”
On his derisive remarks about Carroll, some of which he made in the deposition, Trump said, “I just wanted to defend myself, my family and, frankly, the presidency,” according to The New York Times.
Carroll maintains that Trump assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in 1996 — a charge he denies.
As Trump left the courtroom, the Times noted that he made an audible comment: “This is not America. Not America. This is not America.”
The former president had already been chastised for his running commentary on the case while the jury was in the room. He has attended much of the current trial after declining to attend the 2023 proceedings, which did not go his way. Last week, after Trump was observed in court shaking his head and muttering about Carroll, Judge Lewis Kaplan threatened to remove him for disruptive conduct.
On cross-examination, Trump was asked to confirm that he did not attend the first trial, where jurors awarded Carroll $5 million, the Times said.
Trump has said outside the courthouse that he was advised by his lawyers not to attend the first trial.
Habba called as her first witness a friend of Carroll’s, Frances Carol Martin, who was one of two women that Carroll told about the incident with Trump around the same time it happened. Martin corroborated the story in 2019 after Carroll’s accusation was published in New York Magazine’s The Cut.
Habba reportedly prodded Martin to acknowledge that Carroll told her she was not concerned for her safety after The Cut story was published, attempting to discredit Carroll’s own testimony about fearing death threats.
Before resting their case earlier on Thursday, Carroll’s attorneys showed the jury several excerpts from Trump’s videotaped deposition. He was seen confusing Carroll with one of his ex-wives, Marla Maples, undercutting Trump’s assertion that Carroll was not his “type,” CNBC reported.
Trump was told that he would be subject to strict rules if he took the stand, unable to stray from the direct topic at hand.
Roberta Kaplan, who is an attorney for Carroll and is not related to the judge, warned about Trump’s potential antics in a court filing.
“There are any number of reasons why Mr. Trump might perceive a personal or political benefit from intentionally turning this trial into a circus,” she wrote in a letter to the judge.
Court was adjourned after Trump’s testimony. Closing arguments are expected to be heard Friday.