Trump Judge Threatens to Kick Him Out of Defamation Trial

(Bloomberg) -- A judge threatened to expel Donald Trump from a New York defamation trial for loudly muttering complaints during the court testimony of E. Jean Carroll, who claims he raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.

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Carroll, the writer who last year won a separate sexual-abuse trial against Trump, seeks millions of dollars in damages, claiming her reputation was hurt when he ridiculed her 2019 allegation of sexual assault. The judge already held Trump liable for defamation, leaving it to a new jury trial to set damages.

While Carroll was on the stand testifying Wednesday, Trump was frequently agitated and could be heard making comments to his lawyers. That drew a warning from US District Judge Lewis Kaplan that the former president could be barred from the courtroom if he didn’t behave, prompting a sharp retort from Trump.

“Mr. Trump has the right to be present here, but that right can be forfeited if he is disruptive as what has been reported to me,” Kaplan said outside the presence of the jury. “Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial.”

Trump shook his head and threw his hands up in the air and retorted, “I would love that!”

Kaplan shot back, “I know you would like that. You just can’t control yourself.”

“You can’t either,” Trump said.

Carroll’s lawyer Shawn Crowley complained to Kaplan that Trump could be heard saying Carroll’s claims are false and sarcastically saying she had “finally gotten her memory back.” At one point Trump became highly agitated when Carroll said he claimed she’d “lied” at her trial. Crowley expressed concern that the former president’s comments could be heard by jurors and might influence them.

After Kaplan’s stern warning, Trump returned to court following the lunch break without further interruption.

‘Shattered’ Reputation

The trial, now in its second day, started less than 24 hours after Trump secured a sweeping victory in the Iowa Republican caucuses, the first contest of the primary season. The former president also faces four criminal prosecutions as he campaigns to return to the White House. On top of that, a judge in New York state’s $370 million civil fraud trial against him could issue a verdict at any time.

Carroll, a former Elle magazine advice columnist who used to host her own TV show, is seeking $12 million in compensation for damage to her reputation, plus unspecified punitive damages that can easily soar in such cases.

On Wednesday, she told jurors that Trump “shattered” her reputation by accusing her of making up her allegation that he raped her decades ago in the dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.

“I am here to get my reputation back,” Carroll, 80, told the panel of seven men and two women as Trump watched her from the defense table. Carroll said she is now regularly called a “liar” and a “whack job” by strangers online.

Under questioning by her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who isn’t related to the judge, Carroll described the first wave of insults and threats she dealt with after going public with her accusations in June 2019 against Trump, who was president at the time.

Online Threats

One email she received led her to believe she was in danger of being shot, while a stranger on social media wanted to see “my neck stretched immediately after a public trial,” Carroll said as her voice began to quaver.

“To have the president of the United States, one of the most powerful persons on Earth, calling me a liar for three days and saying I’m a liar 26 times — I counted them — it ended the world that I had been living in and I am in a new world,” Carroll said.

It’s still unclear if Trump will take the stand during the trial, which is expected to last about five days. His legal team advised the judge that the former president wants to testify, but said it’s “unfair” that he’s been barred from denying the underlying rape allegation.

Tense Exchanges

The day’s proceedings also were peppered with tense exchanges between Kaplan and Trump attorney Alina Habba. At least three times the judge ordered the defense lawyer to “sit down” after she tried to re-litigate motions he’d already denied.

At one point, Habba demanded a mistrial. “Denied,” the judge said. “The jury will ignore everything Ms. Habba just said.”

The defense lawyer argued Carroll failed to safeguard important evidence when she deleted some of the emailed death threats she got after claiming Trump had defamed her. Carroll explained she “didn’t know how to handle” the threats.

After Kaplan threatened to kick Trump out of court, Habba’s law partner Michael Madaio asked the judge to recuse himself.

“Denied,” the judge said.

In another exchange, Kaplan and Habba sparred over whether she’d properly cited the date and page for a deposition she was referring to while questioning Carroll. Habba claimed she had provided it.

“Ms. Habba, we’re going to do it my way in this courtroom and that’s all there is to it,” Kaplan said. “You can give me the page and line, and then I’ll look at it, and then we’ll see if we go on from there.”

‘Not in Evidence’

Later, Kaplan admonished Habba for trying to read to jurors emails sent to Carroll that weren’t previously approved by him as evidence. The lawyer has argued Trump’s denials didn’t occur until five hours after others made comments on social media about the New York Magazine story in which Carroll described being sexually assaulted by Trump.

“You are pathetic ugly old hag,” Habba read aloud to jurors, quoting from one of the messages. “No one in their right mind would believe these lies.”

As he glared at Habba, Kaplan interrupted, saying sternly, “You may not read from a document that’s not in evidence. You should refresh your memory of how it is you get a document into evidence.”

Before testimony began, Habba complained about the judge denying her request to not hold the trial on Friday so Trump can attend his mother-in-law’s funeral, calling it “insanely prejudicial” for her client not to be attending the proceedings.

When Kaplan denied her application and Habba continued to press her case, the judge scolded the defense lawyer.

“I will hear no further argument on it, none,” Kaplan said. “Do you understand that word — none?”

“Your honor, I don’t like to be spoken to like that,” Habba said. “I will ask you to refrain from speaking to me like that, your honor.”

“Denied,” Kaplan said.

(Updates to show defense lawyers sparring with judge.)

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