NEW YORK — Donald Trump stormed out of E. Jean Carroll’s defamation damages trial just minutes into closing arguments by the writer’s lawyer Friday morning.
“This case is about how to compensate Ms. Carroll for the harm that Mr. Trump’s original statements — going back to June 2019 — caused her,” Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said in Manhattan Federal Court.
“This case is also about punishing Donald Trump for what he has done and for what he continues to do,” Kaplan said. “Right up to and including this very trial.”
The 80-year-old Carroll’s lawyer said Trump doesn’t think the rules that apply to everyone else apply to him, evidenced by his brazenly continuing to disparage her after being found liable for sexual assault and defamation in her other lawsuit against him last May. In September, the judge found Trump liable in Carroll’s older lawsuit, now on trial, carrying over the last jury’s findings, meaning all that’s left to decide is what more he owes.
“This trial is about getting him to stop once and for all,” Kaplan said.
Minutes after the attorney began speaking, Trump suddenly got out of his chair and left the courtroom — coming back about an hour later for his lawyer’s closing.
“Excuse me. The record will reflect that (Trump) just rose and walked out of the courtroom,” Judge Lewis Kaplan interjected, then ordered his lawyers to remain in their seats.
Kaplan continued her closing without pausing when Trump left. She asked jurors to award Carroll at least $24 million in compensatory damages for two statements the then-president issued in 2019 when she first accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room decades ago.
She noted the statements, in which Trump claimed Carroll had fabricated the incident to sell copies of her book in cahoots with the Democrats, reached at least 100 million people. Carroll testified last week about being in constant fear for her life amid a never-ending stream of online abuse and death threats from Trump supporters.
Her attorney asked the jury of seven men and two women to award her millions more in punitive damages to deter Trump from continuing to defame her, as he has done throughout the trial, including on Truth Social Friday morning. She played a clip of Trump on CNN a day after he was found liable last year, when the audience laughed and applauded him after he called her a “wack job.”
“Donald Trump is worth billions of dollars, he said that under oath,” Kaplan said, citing Trump’s testimony at his civil fraud trial. “With that sort of extreme wealth, it will take an unusually high punitive damages award to have any hope of stopping Donald Trump.”
Kaplan said that while Trump “may not care about the law” and “certainly” didn’t care about the truth, “he does care about money.”
“I know that you will do the right thing and stand up not just for E. Jean Carroll but for the principle that the rule of law applies to all of us,” Kaplan says. “Even the rich and powerful. Even Donald Trump.”
The case on trial concerns the original suit Carroll filed against Trump, which he delayed for years by arguing she couldn’t sue for things he said as president. The defamation claim in the case she won regarded comments made after his presidency.
When Trump was back in the courtroom, looking down at the defense table with his hands clasped and brow furrowed, Habba alleged Carroll was being bankrolled by anti-Trump forces, prompting Judge Kaplan to cut her off and threaten consequences if she violated his orders again.
Habba argued that an attention-craving Carroll had brought the blowback on herself by publicly accusing him of rape in an excerpt of her book “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” which was published by New York magazine.
Habba said Trump shouldn’t be held responsible for Twitter trolls and that “all he did was tell his truth.” After several more sustained objections, she concluded her summation by saying that the case wasn’t about the writer and her client.
“This is about some people in their mothers’ basements who will always be mean on social media. We cannot stop that, and you’re not going to stop it by further harming my client,” Habba said.
In her rebuttal, Carroll’s attorney, Shawn Crowley, said Trump’s “truth” — “dripping with malice, with hate” — was a lie he had no right to say.
“You saw how he has behaved through this trial — you heard him. You saw him stand up and walk out of the courtroom while Ms. Kaplan was speaking. Rules don’t apply to Donald Trump,” Crowley said. “He gets to do whatever he wants and use his massive powerful platform to keep ruining her life.”
The attorney asked the panelists to end Trump’s vitriol once and for all.
“He even believes he gets to testify under oath and lie once again,” Crowley said. “Donald Trump sexually assaulted her. He defamed her. He keeps defaming her. He is not the victim. This is her life. Help her take it back. Make him stop. Make him pay enough so that he will stop.”
Jurors got the case at 1:40 p.m., with Trump locked in the courtroom for about an hour beforehand while the judge instructed them on the law.
Kaplan told the panelists they were in the oldest court in the country, holding proceedings since 1789 — through wars, depressions, and pandemics — and before the first session of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Your role is just the same as the role of the countless jurors before you,” he said.