NEW YORK: A writer explained in graphic detail on Wednesday how Donald Trump allegedly raped her nearly 30 years ago, at a civil trial to determine whether the former US president assaulted her and then lied about it.
“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he lied and said it didn’t happen,” E Jean Carroll told jurors in federal court in Manhattan. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try and get my life back.”
Carroll, 79, a former Elle magazine advice columnist, is seeking unspecified damages from Trump, 76, who leads the Republican field in the 2024 presidential campaign.
Her lawsuit concerns an alleged encounter in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in late 1995 or early 1996, where she says Trump raped her before she could flee.
Carroll says Trump defamed her by calling her rape claim a hoax, lie and “complete con job” on his Truth Social media platform, and said she was not his “type” and had made up the claim to sell her memoir.
She is also suing under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which lets adults sue their alleged abusers long after statutes of limitations have run out.
Trump is not attending and not required to attend the trial, which began on Tuesday. He has a scheduled New Hampshire campaign event on Thursday, and both sides have indicated it is unlikely Trump will testify.
Trump maintained his scorn nonetheless for Carroll’s case on Truth Social on Wednesday, calling her lawyer a “political operative” and the rape claim “a made up SCAM,” adding: “This is a fraudulent & false story–Witch Hunt!”
US district judge Lewis Kaplan warned that Trump could face more legal problems if he kept discussing the case.
‘I can still feel it’, Trump’s accuser says
Carroll testified that she had met Trump years before the alleged rape, finding him “very personable” and a “man about town.”
At Bergdorf, Carroll recalled that she was leaving the store when Trump recognized her and held up his hand. She stopped.
“He said, ‘Hey, you are that advice lady,'” Carroll recalled. “I said, ‘Hey, you are that real estate tycoon.'”
Carroll said Trump bantered in a “joshing” tone as he shopped for lingerie for another woman.
She said Trump asked her to try on a piece of lingerie, prompting her to joke that he should try it on.
Carroll said Trump then coaxed her into an open dressing room, shut the door, shoved her against a wall, and pulled down her tights. She choked up and fought back tears as she described pushing him back.
Trump’s fingers “went into my vagina, which was extremely painful, extremely painful,” and he also “inserted his penis,” she said.
“As I’m sitting here today I can still feel it,” she said. “It left me unable to ever have a romantic life again.”
Asked by her lawyer if she told Trump “no,” Carroll said “I may have said it” but did not know.
She also said she blamed herself, and feared she would be fired and Trump would retaliate if she reported him.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, Carroll came forward in 2019, and denied Trump’s repeated suggestions it was because she disliked his politics.
“I’m not settling a political score at all,” Carroll said. “I’m settling a personal score because he called me a liar repeatedly, and it really has decimated my reputation.”
She said Trump’s attacks caused Elle to fire her, costing her 8 million readers, and left others convinced she was a liar.
Carroll broke down when asked if she regretted ending her silence.
“I’ve regretted this about 100 times,” she said, “but in the end being able to get my day in court finally is everything to me.”
Lawyers for Trump are expected to question Carroll on Thursday, including over her inability to remember when the alleged rape took place.
Trump posted his latest comments on Truth Social about an hour before Wednesday’s testimony began.
He questioned how anyone could believe he – “being very well known, to put it mildly!” – could have raped Carroll.
“She didn’t scream?” Trump wrote. “There are no witnesses? Nobody saw this?”
The posts led Kaplan to tell Trump’s legal team, outside the jury’s presence, that Trump appeared to be “endeavouring, certainly, to speak to his quote-unquote public” and to the jury about matters that have “no business being spoken about.”
Kaplan also said Trump could be “tampering with a new source of liability” if he continued. Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina said he would tell Trump to stop.
But concern about social media influencing the trial resurfaced after Trump’s son Eric tweeted on Wednesday afternoon about Reid Hoffman, the billionaire LinkedIn co-founder and prominent Democratic donor helping fund Carroll’s case.
Eric Trump said Hoffman’s involvement was “an embarrassment to our country, should be illegal and tells you everything you need to know about the case.”
Kaplan told Tacopina such comments needed to stop.
“There are some relevant US statutes here, and somebody on your side ought to be thinking about them,” Kaplan said.
The judge also said Donald Trump’s lawyers cannot mention Hoffman at the trial, calling it “unfairly prejudicial.”