NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s lawyer began grilling writer E. Jean Carroll in court Thursday about a 1990s encounter at a Manhattan department store that she says ended with Trump raping her — an account she acknowledged contained some details that were “difficult to conceive of.”
Lawyer Joseph Tacopina eased into Carroll’s cross-examination at a New York civil trial, questioning the validity of her bombshell claims while suggesting she only came forward with them decades later, in 2019, because of her disdain for Trump’s politics and because she wanted to sell copies of her book.
Tacopina irritated Carroll by using the word “supposedly” to cast doubt on her rape claim, drawing an immediate and stern rebuke from the writer.
“Not supposedly. I was raped,” she said.
“That’s your version, Ms. Carroll, that you were raped,” Tacopina said.
“Those are the facts,” she replied.
Tacopina promised to delve deeper into Carroll’s alleged encounter with Trump, in a dressing room at luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman, in what could end up being several days of cross-examination.
Carroll, 79, started testifying Wednesday and, under questioning by her own lawyer, told jurors how a chance encounter with Trump at the store in spring 1996 turned from flirtatious frivolity in the desolate lingerie section into a violent sexual attack.
Carroll said Trump slammed her against a wall, yanked down her tights and raped her before she kneed him and fled. She never pursued criminal charges and said she would have kept the accusation secret forever if not for the #MeToo movement, which empowered women to speak up in the wake of sexual assault claims against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017.
The allegations against Weinstein surfaced the same day Carroll said she was embarking on a reporting trip for her book, which she originally envisioned as an homage to women who stood up to misbehaving men. The cultural shift changed the thesis of her book and later compelled her to disclose what she said Trump did to her, she said.
“I was flummoxed,” Carroll testified Thursday. She said she thought, “Wait a minute, can we actually speak up and not be pummeled?”
“The light dawned,” she said. The groundswell of women speaking out about sexual assault “caused me to realize that staying silent does not work, that if we speak up we have a chance of limiting the harm.”
Trump, 76, has repeatedly claimed the encounter never happened, that he doesn’t know Carroll and that she’s not his “type” — comments that are at the heart of the defamation claims in Carroll’s lawsuit.
Trump, who is scheduled to hold a campaign event Thursday in Manchester, New Hampshire, is not expected to appear at the trial. Jurors are expected to see parts of a videotaped deposition he gave in the case.
Carroll’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a retraction of what she said were Trump’s defamatory comments. She testified that she’s suing Trump “because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen.”
Thursday’s court session began late after lawyers huddled with the judge in chambers, discussing legal issues that were not immediately revealed.
On Wednesday, Trump launched a counterattack against the trial on social media, telling followers on his Truth Social platform that the case was “a made up SCAM” and that her lawyer is a political operative.
The outburst drew a rebuke and a warning from Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who called it “entirely inappropriate.”
“What seems to be the case is that your client is basically endeavoring certainly to speak to his ‘public,’ but, more troublesome, to the jury in this case about stuff that has no business being spoken about,” the judge observed.
After Tacopina promised to speak with Trump and ask him not to make further posts, Kaplan warned: “We are getting into an area, conceivably, in which your client may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability.”
Later in the day, Kaplan warned Tacopina again to speak with Trump after the ex-president’s son Eric tweeted criticism of funding Carroll’s lawyer received from a wealthy Democratic contributor.
The trial results from a lawsuit Carroll filed in November after the state of New York enacted a law allowing adult victims of sexual assault to sue their attackers even if the assault occurred decades earlier.
The lawsuit contains one claim related directly to the alleged rape and a second claim stemming from remarks Trump made about Carroll’s claims last October.
Carroll testified that writing about her encounter with Trump in a 2019 memoir led to her firing from Elle magazine, where she had worked as an advice columnist for 27 years, and even brought her death threats, leading her to buy bullets for a gun she possessed.
She said Thursday that a look at social media once the trial started revealed fresh insults against her as people labeled her a “liar, slut, ugly, old.”
“But I couldn’t be more proud to be here,” she testified.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.
Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this story.