Former President Donald Trump took the stand very briefly Thursday in the defamation damages trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll after having spent weeks lobbing personal insults against her on social media and stages around the country.
Trump was sworn in as the second witness for the defense in the trial, which will determine how much money he owes the advice columnist for defamation and sexual abuse. A separate jury at the same courthouse decided last year that Trump was liable for the conduct.
An attorney for the former president, Alina Habba, only had a small handful of questions before handing Trump over for cross-examination. Asked about his remarks on the case, Trump said, “I just wanted to defend myself, my family and, frankly, the presidency,” according to The New York Times.
Carroll maintains that Trump assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in 1996 — a charge he denies.
As Trump left the courtroom, the Times noted that he made an audible comment: “This is not America. Not America. This is not America.”
Habba called as her first witness a friend of Carroll’s, Frances Carol Martin, who was one of two women that Carroll told about the incident with Trump around the same time it happened. Martin corroborated the story in 2019 after Carroll’s accusation was published in New York Magazine’s The Cut.
Habba reportedly prodded Martin to acknowledge that Carroll told her she was not concerned for her safety after The Cut story was published, attempting to discredit Carroll’s own testimony about fearing death threats.
Before resting their case earlier on Thursday, Carroll’s attorneys showed the jury several excerpts from Trump’s videotaped deposition, taken in late 2022. He was seen confusing Carroll with one of his ex-wives, Marla Maples, undercutting Trump’s assertion that Carroll was not his “type,” CNBC reported.
Trump has attended much of the current trial after declining to attend the 2023 trial, which did not go his way.
When the former president was seen in court shaking his head and muttering derisive comments with jurors, Judge Lewis Kaplan threatened to remove him for disruptive conduct.
Trump was barred from discussing unrelated topics if he took the stand.