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Trump returns to a New York courtroom for second E. Jean Carroll defamation trial

Former US President Donald Trump departs after speaking to the press after attending the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization in New York State Supreme Court, in New York City on January 11, 2024.
JOHN LAMPARSKI
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AFP via Getty Images
Former US President Donald Trump departs after speaking to the press after attending the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization in New York State Supreme Court, in New York City on January 11, 2024.

Another New York trial against former President Donald Trump is expected to begin today: the second defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Carroll previously brought a civil lawsuit against Trump, alleging he raped her in a Manhattan department store and then defamed her when he denied her story. Last spring, a jury found Trump had sexually abused Carroll and then defamed her, awarding her $5 million in damages

But this trial, which is expected to wrap up this month, is for a separate incident of defamation — specifically when as president, Trump said Carroll "is not my type."

Carroll had filed this defamation lawsuit four years ago, but was blocked by Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr who argued Trump spoke within the bounds of his office as president. But last summer, the Biden administration's Justice Department reversed its decision that Trump had immunity, allowing the trial to proceed.

"I have no idea who this woman is. I have absolutely no idea. The whole thing is ridiculous," he told reporters last week. "I'm going to go to it and I'm going to explain I don't know who the hell she is."

The former president, fresh off a resounding win in the Iowa caucuses, is not required to attend the trial. Trump's lawyer Alina Habba requested the trial be moved andnotified the judge that Trump would be unable to attend the trial on Wednesday and Thursday this week because he will instead attend the Florida funeral of his mother-in-law who passed away last week.

Trump is also slated for several campaign events in New Hampshire this week, including one Wednesday night.

New York district Judge Lewis Kaplan denied the requestbut will allow the trial, which is only expected to last a few days, to slip into next Monday if Trump's testimony is left.

Last week, Kaplan said "the fact that Mr. Trump sexually abused - indeed, raped - Ms. Carroll has been conclusively established," thereby blocking Trump's lawyers from arguing this week that he did not rape Carroll. Ahead of the start of the trial, Kaplan underscored that this trial is limited to the issue of damages sustained as a result of Trump's statements made in June 2019.

"Those statements already have been determined to have been false, defamatory, and made with constitutional actual malice," Kaplan wrote.

Left to be decided in this trial is how much money Trump must pay Carroll. The penalty is expected to be higher than the first one.

The trial in Manhattan will take place a day after the Iowa caucuses and as voters in New Hampshire are preparing to cast their ballots in next week's Republican primary. In a press conference last week, Trump doubled down that he believed, without evidence, that this trial is politically motivated.

In a letter to Judge Kaplan sent last week, Carroll's lawyers urged the court to take preventative measures to "ensure that Mr. Trump does not present inadmissible, prejudicial, or otherwise improper information to the jury" should he seek to testify.

"The Court will take such measures as it finds appropriate to avoid circumvention of its rulings and of the law," Kaplanwrote over the weekend.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.