Judge clears way for E Jean Carroll defamation suit against Trump

Carroll says Trump ‘doubled down’ on defamatory statements after a grand jury concluded he had abused her.

E Jean Carroll exits a courthouse
Writer E Jean Carroll, seen here exiting a courtroom in Manhattan on May 9, has said Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s [File: David Dee Delgado/Reuters]

A United States federal judge has said that writer E Jean Carroll can move forward with a defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump after a jury in May found the Republican leader liable for defaming and sexually abusing her.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled in favour of Carroll on Tuesday, dismissing arguments that the case could not proceed because the jury determined Trump was responsible for sexual abuse, not rape.

“We look forward to moving ahead expeditiously on E Jean Carroll’s remaining claims,” her lawyer Roberta Kaplan said on Tuesday.

The judge’s decision is the latest in a long string of legal setbacks for the former president, who remains mired in scandals and investigations as he seeks the Republican Party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

On Tuesday, Trump also appeared in a courtroom in Miami, Florida, to enter a not-guilty plea in a federal case over his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Prosecutors in that case have accused Trump of hoarding sensitive records and refusing to hand them over when asked.

Carroll, meanwhile, has pursued two civil suits against Trump, both stemming from allegations he raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.

In May, a jury awarded her $5m total in compensatory and punitive damages in one of the suits. That included $2m for the sexual abuse and $3m for defamation. That jury ultimately concluded that Trump had sexually assaulted Carroll but that the evidence was not sufficient to prove rape.

The ongoing defamation suit, meanwhile, seeks $10m in damages. It includes remarks given by Trump after the conclusion of the previous case.

The suit accuses Trump of “doubling down” on his defamatory statements against Carroll in a TV interview on CNN. During that broadcast, he waived aside the May verdict by calling Carroll a “whack job” with a “fake” story.

Trump has repeatedly denied Carroll’s claims and lashed out at the writer, saying she was not his “type”.

The former president, however, has a history of demeaning comments towards women. In 2016, he faced a scandal when an old interview resurfaced showing that he bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy”.

On Tuesday, Judge Kaplan also set a deadline of July 13 for the Department of Justice to decide whether it could be substituted for Trump as the defendant.

If the Justice Department did so, it would essentially be the end of the $10m defamation case, since the US government cannot be sued for defamation.

The Department previously argued in favour of such a change but on June 9, said it had been “overtaken by events” and asked for time to reassess.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters