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Trump testifies in the E. Jean Carroll trial

E. Jean Carroll arrives for her civil defamation trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Michael M. Santiago
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E. Jean Carroll arrives for her civil defamation trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.

Updated January 25, 2024 at 3:25 PM ET

Former President Donald Trump, in brief testimony Thursday in the defamation trial brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, insisted that his previous recorded statement about the allegations was true and that he did not intend to harm her.

"100 percent," he said when asked if he stood by his deposition in which he called Carroll a liar.

Asked by Alina Habba, his lawyer, if he ever instructed anyone to hurt Carroll, Trump said: "I just wanted to defend myself, my family and, frankly, the presidency."

Carroll sued Trump for calling her a liar when she accused him of sexually assaulting her. This is her second lawsuit against him.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has already ruled Trump is liable for defamation but a jury must decide how much he owes her.

Trump's appearance in the New York courtroom comes just days after he won the New Hampshire primary and became the prohibitive GOP front-runner. The case is one of several involving Trump, who is also awaiting a verdict in a civil trial that could result in him paying at least $250 million to New York state for his business practices, which have been deemed by a judge to be fraudulent. He could also be prohibited from doing business in the state where he made his name as a real estate mogul. In all, Trump faces 91 charges in federal and state trials, ranging from the ones in New York to those at the federal level related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Closing arguments in the Carroll case are set for Friday.

What this case is about

In 2019, Carroll, an advice columnist and freelance writer, accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s. The accusation, which was detailed in her book, was first previewed in a New York magazine article. After the article published, Trump issued two statements in response to reporters, including one in which he outright denied her claim and said she was "not my type."

Carroll then sued Trump for defamation, arguing that his comments ruined her reputation as a trusted source in the media and resulted in a slew of insults and threatening messages, emails and comments to her social media accounts.

At the time, then-Trump-appointed Attorney General Bill Barr blocked the lawsuit, arguing that Trump's comments were made in his official capacity as president. This caused the lawsuit to be stuck in court for several years.

In 2022, Carroll sued Trump again, this time for sexual assault and for another instance of defamation. This went to trial in 2023 — after Trump left the White House — where a jury found Trump liable for both assault and defamation; Trump was ordered to pay Carroll $5 million.

Also in 2023, Biden's Justice Department reversed course and allowed the first lawsuit on defamation to move forward. In part because of the 2023 decision that had found Trump liable for assault, Judge Kaplan ruled that defamation also happened in 2019 and that Trump is also liable.

Due to that ruling, the only thing this jury has to decide is how much money Trump owes Carroll, which could be higher than before.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.