Donald Trump briefly testified Thursday in a defamation court case, his first appearance since winning New Hampshire’s primary and drawing closer to an election rematch with President Joe Biden.
Far from hiding his multiple legal problems, Trump has turned courtroom sessions into quasi-campaign events, claiming that each trial is part of a Democratic establishment attempt to prevent his return to the White House for a second term.
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Writer E. Jean Carroll is seeking more than $10 million in damages for defamation by Trump in a federal court in New York, which has the power only to impose a civil penalty, not a criminal conviction.
The 77-year-old Trump — whom a jury found liable for sexual assault of Carroll in a separate federal civil case in New York — took the stand to deny he instructed anyone to harm Carroll with his statements.
Judge Lewis Kaplan limited Trump to three questions from his lawyers, to which he could only answer yes or no to prevent him digressing from the case.
“She says something I considered false,” Trump began to say before Kaplan cut him off.
“This is not America,” Trump said as he left the courtroom following his short appearance.
Trump separately faces a number of criminal cases, including his alleged attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden, and a civil fraud case.
Overnight the former Republican president unleashed a battery of attacks on Carroll, using his Truth Social platform to smear her and deny the veracity of her evidence over the course of 37 messages.
Carroll, 80, alleges that Trump defamed her in 2019, when she first made her assault allegations public, by saying she “is not my type.”
– Court tensions –
Last week when asked about how the comment damaged her reputation, Carroll said “previously I was known simply as a journalist, and now I’m known as a liar, a fraud, and a whack job” — quoting insults leveled at her by the 2024 White House hopeful.
Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba sought to have the case thrown out Thursday on the grounds that threatening messages targeting Carroll, which feature in the case, began on social media before Trump’s 2019 comments. Her request was denied.
Jurors were shown Trump’s October 2022 deposition during which he confused a picture of Carroll for his former wife Marla Maples, which threatened to cast doubt on his claim Carroll was not his type.
There were tense moments in court last week as Carroll testified just a few rows from where Trump sat.
Carroll’s legal team complained that Trump was making audible comments about her testimony and that jurors could be influenced.
The judge asked that Trump lower his voice when conferring with his legal team, and later threatened to throw him out altogether.
Testimony was due to resume on Monday but was delayed after a juror reported Covid symptoms, and Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba was exposed to the virus.
Last year, another federal jury found Trump liable for sexually assaulting Carroll in a department store dressing room in 1996 and subsequently defaming her in 2022, when he called her a “complete con job.”
Trump had been in court while he campaigned ahead of the New Hampshire primary, which he won handily over his only remaining challenger Nikki Haley, as he closes in on becoming the Republican candidate in the November election against Biden.