E. Jean Carroll Might Deliver First Big Hit to Trump

From a Washington Post column by Jennifer Rubin headlined “E. Jean Carroll might deliver the first significant hit to Trump”:

With just three days completed of journalist E. Jean Carroll’s civil suit against former president Donald Trump for assault and defamation, it is risky to predict a verdict. Just as with a Supreme Court oral argument, it is difficult to read how arguments and testimony are being received in the courtroom. But if this were a contest between lawyers, it would be a knockout, possibly on day one. (Maybe before the first day, when Trump counsel Joe Tacopina lost for the second time a motion to exclude the testimony of witness Natasha Stoynoff, who alleges Trump once pinned her to the wall and forcibly kissed her.)

Tuesday, Trump, who has repeatedly denied the accusations against him, as expected didn’t have the nerve to show up at federal court in Manhattan. (At the close of the day, Judge Lewis Kaplan scolded Tacopina for failing to state definitively whether Trump would testify.) Despite his refusal to appear, Carroll’s lawyers can read his deposition into the record. Moreover, his non-appearance tells the jury Trump doesn’t respect the court or them enough to show up.

The next problem for Trump: No juror who underwent voir dire had ever attended a Trump rally, followed Truth Social, believed medical evidence of rape was necessary or thought the passage of time made an allegation of sexual assault less believable. The prospective jurors were of different races, educational levels and jobs. No MAGA-hat wearers or Proud Boys in the bunch. (Among the nine, many said they watch mainstream news outlets — another bad sign for Trump.)

Carroll had her team, and Trump had his — all male. (You have to wonder if they couldn’t find a woman to defend him or whether they are straight-up playing for the votes of any misogynists among the six men on the panel.)

Carroll’s opening argument was delivered by one of the judge’s former clerks, Shawn Crowley. (This team is very cleverly establishing its credibility with the judge.) She effectively took jurors through the alleged rape incident. MSNBC analyst Lisa Rubin (no relation) tweeted that Crowley was most compelling when “convincingly weaving together the stories of Carroll and the two other accusers, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, into ‘three women, one pattern,’ all of which tracks Trump’s own statement on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.”

In his opening remarks, Tacopina was belligerent and insulting. He called Carroll a liar out to make money. He repeated Trump’s denial that he had raped Carroll. He called her suit “an assault on justice.” He said he would call no witnesses of his own. (So why not tell the judge that Trump isn’t showing up?) He was coarse, obnoxious and disrespectful — a perfect mouthpiece for his client.

Day two brought more misery for the Trump team. It began with Kaplan rapping Trump’s lawyers for a rant Trump posted on Truth Social, accusing Carroll (again) of making up the charges. Kaplan told Trump’s lawyers this might open “a new source of potential liability.”

Later in the day, the judge again warned Trump’s lawyers that they had better talk to their client, this time regarding an Eric Trump tweet about Carroll’s lawsuit. The judge intimated that other courts and statutes (e.g., intimidation is a crime in New York) could come into play.

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Carroll began her testimony. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try to get my life back.” She then took the jury through the alleged rape and explained in an altogether credible way how sexual assault victims don’t come forward because they feel responsible and ashamed — or fear their attacker. The Post reported, “Carroll described explicitly how he also forced sex on her in the dressing room before she successfully kneed him away from her so she could flee the room.” She added that her decision to go into the dressing room with him “still haunts her, choking up as she explained. She said she did not file a police report in part because she blamed herself.”

She also feared (correctly) that Trump and a fleet of lawyers would publicly attack her. Her description of the reputational harm done when Trump called her a liar was gut-wrenching. “The violence and the dirt and the seedy language and the people describing what they think I did and why nobody in the world would touch me because of my enormous ugliness … they sort of swamped the heartfelt letters I received,” she said.

At the end of a long, emotionally draining day, a tearful Carroll said, “I got my day in court finally and it’s everything to me.”

Cross-examination of Carroll began Thursday. Tacopina was probably not the right guy to handle this. Gruff, belittling and heavy-handed, he scored few if any hits and frequently drew rebukes from the judge. Carroll freely admitted her memory holes and tersely pushed back on his insinuations that she was in this for the money. In some sense, her inability to recall specifics such as the date and day of the week made her account even more credible.

The more Tacopina harangued and argued with her, the more he seemed to prove her point: She had feared coming forward all these years because of the bullying and insults she knew she would endure.

As the day wore on, Carroll’s counsel increased the number of objections, most sustained. It seemed that Tacopina was simply getting frustrated in failing to dent Carroll’s credibility. At one point, the judge chided him for getting argumentative. He even instructed Tacopina to “move on.”

The trial will resume Monday. Carroll has taken the worst Trump’s lawyers can throw at her. She remains the poised, credible and somewhat sad, fragile figure she was when the trial began.

Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. She is the author of “Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump.”

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