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Trump testified in his own defense in defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Donald Trump testified for just minutes today in his own defense in the defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll. Carroll sued Trump after he called her a liar when she went public with her account of sexual assault. And as a warning, we will mention explicit details in this conversation. Carroll is now seeking damages for the loss to her reputation, and she's looking to punish Trump for his verbal attacks. NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in court today. Hi there.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: Andrea, describe the scene, if you can.

BERNSTEIN: There had been a full morning of testimony. I'll get to that in a minute. And then promptly after lunch, out of the presence of the jury, Judge Lewis Kaplan told the former president he was not allowed to relitigate the findings of the jury in Carroll's first trial last spring. Trump chose not to testify in his own defense in that trial, so he will not have a chance to deny the assault allegations to a jury, which, based on his outbursts inside the courtroom, he seemed to want to do.

This is pretty graphic, but as the judge put it, it is established that, quote, "Mr. Trump in fact sexually abused Ms. Carroll by forcibly inserting his fingers into her vagina." When Kaplan said this, Trump said, ugh - loudly. But Kaplan was being very clear - he did it, and that's the law. Then there was a back-and-forth with Trump's attorney, Alina Habba, where Judge Kaplan wanted to know exactly what Trump was going to say. And while she was speaking, Trump said from the defense table, I never met the woman. I don't know who the woman is.

SUMMERS: Did the judge succeed in keeping Trump from speaking out of order in front of the jury?

BERNSTEIN: Basically, yes. At about 2:15 p.m., Trump walked heavily from the defense table to the witness stand, put up his right hand, and swore to tell the truth. The first question was about recorded pretrial testimony Trump had given in Carroll's first case that had been played earlier in the day, in which he was questioned, among other things, about saying Carroll was, quote, "not his type" from the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Did Trump stand by this deposition? - he was asked. One hundred percent was the answer. Did you deny the allegations because Ms. Carroll made an accusation? Yes, I did. Did he instruct anyone to harm Ms. Carroll? He answered, I just wanted to defend myself, my family and the presidency - though the jury was instructed to disregard everything after defend myself.

After a few questions from the plaintiffs, Trump left the stand. The defense rested. The plaintiffs offered no rebuttal, and the jury was told there will be closing arguments and instructions tomorrow. They'll get the case by lunchtime. Then, Trump left the courtroom with his large entourage, saying, as he walked down the courtroom aisle, this is not America, which he repeated three times.

SUMMERS: OK. And Andrea, what else happened today?

BERNSTEIN: The plaintiffs called E. Jean Carroll's former editor at Elle, who described her as, quote, "a truth-teller and one of the most popular writers." The defense then called Carol Martin, a former news anchor in New York City in the 1990s and a friend of Carroll's. She'd written a text message to a third party, saying that Carroll was, quote - was acting like, quote, "Santa at a Christmas parade" - that is, enjoying the attention. Martin acknowledged those words but said she regretted writing them and other texts like that - that they didn't reflect her feelings.

SUMMERS: All right. Last thing here - any bets on when the jury might decide?

BERNSTEIN: So I have given up making predictions in this case, but I will say all the jury has to decide is how much Carroll should be paid. The plaintiffs have so far asked for not less than $10 million.

SUMMERS: NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Andrea, thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Bernstein
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