Trump set to face jury over sex abuse and defamation claims

Jury selection began in a New York courtroom Tuesday after a judge denied Donald Trump’s request that a defamation trial stemming from a columnist’s claims that he sexually abused her in the 1990s be suspended on Thursday so he could attend the funeral of his mother-in-law.

The denial came during a combative exchange between lawyers for Trump and Judge Lewis A. Kaplan over evidence in the case, Trump’s desire to attend the Thursday funeral and whether the trial should occur at all.

This is the penalty phase of a civil defamation trial stemming from columnist E. Jean Carroll’s claims he sexually attacked her in a department store dressing room. A May trial found Trump sexually abused Carroll, awarding her $5 million. Trump did not attend that trial, but he showed up Tuesday morning after his political victory at the Iowa caucus hours earlier.

After a big victory in the Iowa caucus, former President Donald Trump is expected in court Tuesday to face another legal challenge: a trial to determine how much more he owes the writer E. Jean Carroll for denying that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s and accusing her of lying about her claims.

Jury selection begins Tuesday morning at a federal court in Manhattan. Opening arguments could take place by afternoon in what is essentially a second penalty phase of a legal fight Carroll has already won.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 09: Writer E. Jean Carroll leaves a Manhattan court house after a jury found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990's on May 09, 2023 in New York City. The ju

In May, a different jury awarded Carroll $5 million after concluding that Trump sexually abused her in a department store dressing room in spring 1996, then defamed her in 2022 by claiming she made it up after she revealed it publicly in a 2019 memoir. The jury said Carroll hadn't proven that Trump raped her.

One issue that wasn’t decided in that first trial was how much Trump owed for comments he made about Carroll while he was still president.

Determining that dollar amount will be the new jury’s only job.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled last year that the new jury didn’t need to decide anew whether Carroll was sexually abused or whether Trump’s remarks about her were defamatory since those subjects were covered in the first trial.

Trump is expected at the trial Tuesday, though his plans for the rest of the week have become unclear since his mother-in-law’s funeral was scheduled for Thursday. The trial is expected to last several days.

He has said he wants to testify, but if he does there will be strict limits on what he can talk about. He did not attend last year's trial, saying recently that his lawyer advised against it.

Because the trial is supposed to be focused only on how much Trump owes Carroll, the judge has warned Trump and his lawyers that they cannot say things to jurors that he has said on the campaign trail or elsewhere, like claiming she lied about him to promote her memoir.

Kaplan also banned them from saying anything about Carroll’s "past romantic relationships, sexual disposition, and prior sexual experiences," from suggesting Trump didn't sexually abuse Carroll or from implying she was motivated by "a political agenda, financial interests, mental illness, or otherwise."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 09: Magazine Columnist E. Jean Carroll arrives for her civil trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court on May 09, 2023 in New York City. Carroll has testified that she was raped by former Presiden

They are also banned, the judge said, from advancing any argument inconsistent with the court’s ruling that "Mr. Trump, with actual malice, lied about sexually assaulting Ms. Carroll."

Those restrictions don’t apply outside of the presence of the jury. That has left Trump free to continue posting on social media about all of the above topics — something he has done repeatedly in recent days — although each fresh denial comes with the possibility of increasing damages he must pay.

Kaplan rejected Trump's request to delay the trial a week, although he said he would let Trump testify as late as Monday even if the trial is otherwise ready for closing arguments by Thursday.

Carroll, 80, plans to testify about the damage to her career and reputation that resulted from Trump's public statements. She seeks $10 million in compensatory damages and millions more in punitive damages.

Trump, 77, is appealing the findings of last year's jury and has continued to maintain that he doesn't know Carroll, that he never met her at the Bergdorf Goodman store in midtown Manhattan in spring 1996 and that Carroll made up her claims to sell her book and for political reasons.

Regardless of his losses in court, Trump leads all Republicans in presidential primary polls and plans to spend plenty of time in court fighting the civil cases and four criminal cases against him, saying, "In a way, I guess you consider it part of the campaign."