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A lesson in defamation: Trump silent in court as he wails online

Inside a federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan on Tuesday, writer E Jean Carroll sat alongside her attorneys, facing forward and refusing to look back at the man she accused of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s: Donald Trump.

It is the second time that Ms Carroll and Mr Trump have faced off against one another in court – only this time the tension was far more palpable.

Last spring, a jury sitting in the same seats as the current nine-person panel, found Mr Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation against Ms Carroll. The defamation in that trial pertained to statements the former president made in 2022 in which he denied sexually assaulting Ms Carroll or even knowing her.

This time, the jury is being asked to only determine how much, if any, damages the former president owes Ms Carroll for defaming her in statements he made in 2019 in which he claimed Ms Carroll was “not my type” and accused her of lying about sexually assaulting her.

The facts of the case, that Mr Trump sexually abused Ms Carroll and lied about it, have already been established.

Unlike last time, now Mr Trump cannot defend himself against the allegations of sexual abuse – likely a difficult feat for the former president.

When Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the case, articulated the facts of the case to the jury, Mr Trump shook his head as if to remind himself he didn’t subscribe to the previous jury’s findings.

Even throughout jury selection on Tuesday morning, while the former president sat facing forward in the courtroom, Mr Trump’s Truth Social account posted no less than 22 posts about Ms Carroll – claiming the first trial was corrupt, claiming Ms Carroll’s allegation was a “fake story”, and once again, claiming he never met, touched or seen Ms Carroll.

Shawn Crowley, the attorney for Ms Carroll, urged the jury to consider how much money it would take to get Mr Trump to stop defaming her.

“Think carefully about what exactly Donald Trump did here,” Ms Crowley said during her opening statements.

She argued that Mr Trump’s claims that Ms Carroll was lying led to swaths of online hate and threats, which made Ms Carroll fear for her life.

“It’s time to make him pay, dearly, for what he’s done,” Ms Crowley said.

Writer E Jean Carroll has accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s (Getty Images)
Writer E Jean Carroll has accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s (Getty Images)

Ms Crowley reiterated multiple times that the facts of the case could not be disputed and that Mr Trump’s continuing attempts to undermine Ms Carroll’s lawsuit had damaged her reputation as a writer and her career.

Meanwhile, Alina Habba, the lawyer for Mr Trump, said that Ms Carroll’s career had actually never been so successful than in the wake of Mr Trump’s defamation – which ultimately is what the trial is about.

“This case is not about assault, we had that case,” Ms Habba told the jury, asking them to only focus on two statements Mr Trump made in 2019.

Ms Habba argued that the jury would be tasked with determining if only the two statements Mr Trump made in 2019 caused Ms Carroll’s reputation to be harmed. She called the hate messages Ms Carroll received to be just “mean tweets” and argued that those were a natural part of social media.

The trial is expected to last three to four days and will include testimony from Ms Carroll and, possibly, Mr Trump.