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Republicans downplay Trump’s $83m defamation verdict

Republicans are falling over themselves attempting to downplay the verdict that former president Donald Trump must pay writer E Jean Carroll $83.3m in damages for defamation after he repeatedly rejected her claim that he sexually abused her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.

The verdict was handed down last week after a previous jury found Mr Trump liable for sexual abuse, meaning that this most recent trial was only intended to establish damages.

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Mr Trump’s last remaining challenger in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, his former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, called her former boss “unhinged” but still downplayed that her opponent was found liable for sexual abuse.

“You have just now called him unhinged. Why give him a pass on this issue where a jury has found him liable for sexual abuse?” moderator Kristen Welker asked Ms Haley.

“I'm not giving him a pass on anything. I mean, I have said, you know, he went on for three or four minutes talking about how I didn't secure the Capitol on January 6,” she said about Mr Trump recently appearing to confuse her with former Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I mean, clearly, he was confused, thinking that I was Nancy Pelosi. But look, that's exactly why we don't need two people in their 80s running for president. We need someone who can serve a strong eight years to get our country back on track. You can’t do that with him,” Ms Haley added. “And I think it's not being disrespectful. It's the fact that when you're 80, you are declining. That's just a fact. And so, look, there are multiple things that I think are the reason he should not be president. That's the whole reason I'm running. I do think that he is in decline. And I think that he needs to know to step away.”

“I do think that he surrounds himself in chaos, and we can't be a country in disarray and have a world on fire,” she added. “I do think that these court cases are distracting not just to the American people, but to him himself, which is keeping him from talking about what really matters. That's exactly why I don't think he should be president.”

Ms Haley said she believes “the American people” should decide what should disqualify someone from being president.

“We don't need to take over anything that the American people have the right to do ... I think Donald Trump has the right to be on the ballot,” she said.

But Ms Haley also said that she “absolutely” trusts the jury that found Mr Trump liable for sexual abuse.

“I think that they made their decision based on the evidence. I just don't think that should take him off the ballot. I think the American people will take him off the ballot. I think that the best way to go forward is not to let him play the victim. Let him play the loser. That's what we want him to do at the end of the day,” she argued.

South Carolina senator Tim Scott, who recently dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Mr Trump, said on ABC News, “myself and all the voters that support Donald Trump support a return to normalcy as it relates to what affects their kitchen table”.

“The average person in our country ... they're not talking about lawsuits. As a matter of fact, what I have seen, however, is that the perception that the legal system is being weaponised against Donald Trump is actually increasing his poll numbers,” Mr Scott said.

Oklahoma senator James Lankford was asked on CBS’s Face the Nation if Mr Trump being found liable gave him “any pause about” the ex-president “returning to office”.

“It doesn't obviously ... It’s been interesting the number of legal cases that have come up against president Trump and then have failed and had been dropped or had been kicked out of the courts ... This one's actually went through. He's already said he's going to challenge it,” Mr Lankford said. “So let the courts actually make their decisions and let the American people make their decisions. We’ve got states like Colorado that are trying to be able to block the people of Colorado from being able to choose who they vote for. Let the American people decide this in November.”