Former President Donald Trump was found liable on Tuesday for the defamation and sexual abuse of 79-year-old Elizabeth Jean Carroll, also known as E. Jean Carroll, in a case relating to an alleged incident in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City sometime in the mid-1990s.
A New York City jury said that the former president sexually abused Goodman in a dressing room in the store and later defamed her by stating that she had made up the claims to help sell her memoir.
A jury of three women and six men decided that Carroll had not proven that Trump raped her – a claim not supported by evidence – but did determine that Donald Trump had sexually abused the journalist and defamed her. The decision was made in less than three hours, and Carroll was awarded $5 million in damages.
What E. Jean Carroll Claimed
Carroll claims that she met Trump sometime between 1995 and 1996 in a famous New York City department store. During the encounter, which was not planned, Carroll alleges that Trump asked her for her opinion about a gift he was buying for a “girl.”
Then, Carroll says in her 2019 memoir, Trump coerced her into a dressing room where he raped her.
“The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall,” Carroll wrote. “He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coatdress and pulls down my tights.”
Carroll claims that she physically attacked Trump to stop him from continuing and then ran out of the dressing room and the store.
No evidence was provided in the way of CCTV footage during the trial, but friends of the journalist said in a New York Times podcast in 2019 that Carroll had told them of the attack soon after it happened.
What Says Donald Trump?
Former President Donald Trump denies all claims made by Carroll. During an hour-long deposition recently made available on YouTube, the former president insisted that he was not physically attracted to Carroll, and that he rarely visited the department store to purchase gifts for himself or others.
During the questioning, which took place in October, Trump said that he had no idea who Carroll was and that the only time he had met her was during a celebrity meet and greet, where she took a photograph of him and her husband shaking hands.
During the questioning, Trump confused an image of Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples. At 76 years old, the former president’s eyesight is likely not what it used to be – and throughout the deposition, the former president repeatedly complained that he could not read the documents being put in front of him – but the accidental mix-up became a key talking point for Carrol’s lawyers in the courtroom.
Can Trump Get A Fair Trial In NYC?
Former President Donald Trump and his lawyers are acutely conscious of the fact that the jury pool in New York City is overwhelmingly made up of people who oppose the former president and his political agenda. New York City, home to millions of Americans from all over the country, votes overwhelmingly for the Democrats. Pew Research Center data shows that adults in the NYC metro area who vote or lean Democrat make up 56% of the adult population, while just 26% vote Republican and 18% have “no lean” towards either party.
Among those 26% who vote or lean Republican, not all necessarily support the former president.
After nearly a decade of American politics lurching further to the right and the left, creating perhaps the biggest political divide the United States has ever seen, finding enough people in New York City who do not feel strongly one way or the other about the former president is no easy feat.
Trump to Appeal
In response to the news, former President Trump and his lawyers announced that he would appeal the case.
In a statement published on Trump’s social media platform Truth Social, the former president simply described the trial as “VERY UNFAIR.” In another post, Trump repeated his claim that he had no idea who Carroll was.
Later, speaking to a reporter from Fox News Digital, Trump suggested that the entire case and trial was biased against him, and promised to appeal.
“We’ll appeal. We got treated very badly by the Clinton-appointed judge,” Trump said.
Will It Affect His Campaign?
While the verdict is unlikely to affect support from the former president’s populist conservative base, it could impact independents differently. In the 2020 presidential election, Trump hemorrhaged support from independents in key swing states, ultimately losing his election.
Polls have also previously shown how most Americans believed that Trump should either be impeached or resign from office, before he left the White House, over mere allegations of sexual harassment. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine independents flocking to Trump after this verdict, unless the alternative – a second Biden administration – looks just too terrible.
After Trump was indicted in a New York City criminal court over what many analysts and legal experts have described as a misdemeanor, however, it’s hard to tell whether repeated courtroom battles will hurt Trump’s chances or demonstrate to the American voters what happens when a political candidate “stands up to the system.”
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.