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Judge threatens to throw Trump out of E. Jean Carroll defamation trial

The writer has sued former president Donald Trump for allegedly defaming her after she publicly accused him of sexual assault

E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court on Wednesday. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)
5 min

NEW YORK — A federal judge threatened to throw Donald Trump out of court Wednesday after the former president defied an order to keep quiet during writer E. Jean Carroll’s testimony at his defamation trial, which resulted in Trump becoming combative with the jurist.

U. S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan addressed the former president after being told for the second time by Carroll’s lawyers that Trump, seated at the defense table, was denigrating Carroll loudly enough for the nine-member jury to have heard it. Trump had already received one warning from Kaplan, an official court order.

“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” Kaplan said before a midday break. While Trump has a right to be there, the judge said, “that right can be forfeited … if he is disruptive.”

Trump threw his hands up in an animated show of disapproval.

“I would love it! I would love it!” he said.

Kaplan said Trump appeared unable to control himself.

“You can’t either!” Trump said.

The exchange Wednesday came during one of several recent New York and D.C. court appearances by Trump, who has also participated in political campaign events in places such as Iowa and New Hampshire. The court dates at times have seemed like part of Trump’s reelection campaign as he has spoken of himself as someone coping with politically motivated criminal and civil cases designed to keep him from becoming president again.

Minutes after court proceedings ended for the day Wednesday, Trump held a news conference at his nearby commercial property, 40 Wall Street. He criticized Kaplan and then transitioned into comments about the upcoming Republican primary in New Hampshire.

“We’re making a big speech up in New Hampshire. We just got a poll, and that shows me leading by a lot,” he said.

Carroll, a writer and advice columnist, told a federal jury on Wednesday that Trump’s attacks on her credibility beginning in 2019, after she publicly accused him of a long-ago sexual assault, continue to harm her professionally and put her in fear for her safety.

A jury in a separate civil case last year found that Trump sexually abused and defamed Carroll and owed her $5 million in damages. The trial that started Tuesday is focused on whether the former president owes Carroll additional damages for separate comments he made about her.

Kaplan found in a summary judgment motion in September that Trump is liable in the remaining case, sharply narrowing what the jury in the pending case can consider.

What to know about E. Jean Carroll's first lawsuit against Donald Trump

Kaplan — who also repeatedly admonished Trump lawyer Alina Habba for not following courtroom rules and basic trial procedure — first told the former president to exhibit appropriate trial decorum during late morning.

“I’m just going to ask that Mr. Trump take special care to keep his voice down when he’s conferring with counsel so that the jury does not overhear it,” Kaplan, who has senior status in the Southern District of New York and has been on the bench about three decades, said outside the presence of jurors.

After Trump’s blowup later with Kaplan, there were no further admonishments, but the former president continued to look visibly irritated as objection rulings went against Habba during the lawyer’s cross-examination of Carroll.

Testifying for the second time in a year against Trump, Carroll said disparaging comments the former president made about her had damaged her life.

“I’m here because Donald Trump assaulted me and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened,” Carroll said. “He lied and he shattered my reputation.”

Trump appeared agitated throughout her testimony and he made remarks that could have been heard by the jury, according to Carroll attorney Shawn Crowley. He said that “things that she is saying are false” and that “she seems to have now gotten her memory back,” Crowley told the judge.

Interruptions of that nature could be seen as poisonous to the jury, which is only supposed to consider evidence and testimony in reaching its verdict.

Trump, the Republican front-runner in this year’s presidential election, also attended part of the court proceedings Tuesday, before leaving midday to attend a campaign event in New Hampshire.

Carroll has said Trump forced himself on her in a dressing room in the high-end Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1996. He denies that any encounter occurred and has assailed Carroll as a liar who is seeking fame and money.

E. Jean Carroll brought a tough case against Donald Trump, then dressed to win it.

Carroll said her reputation to readers and as a reliable source for relationship and life advice has been changed because of Trump’s flurry of insults, which generated thousands of harassing social media messages and emails from Trump supporters as well as hundreds of violent threats.

“Previously I was known simply as a journalist and had a column and now I’m known as the ‘liar,’ the ‘fraud’ and the ‘whack job,’” Carroll said, citing common Trump refrains relating to her.

Trump is expected to testify Monday. He did not give testimony at the first trial involving Carroll, and he is appealing that verdict.

Since the second trial began, Kaplan has scolded Habba for issues involving courtroom decorum, including when he admonished her repeatedly on Wednesday for improperly trying to introduce exhibits and suggested she use a break in the action to “refresh your memory” about the trial procedure.

He also chided her for not standing up to voice an objection and for inappropriately making a third request to postpone the trial for a Trump family funeral.

“It’s denied. Sit down!” Kaplan said.

Wesley Parnell contributed to this report.