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Jury orders Trump to pay $83 million for defaming columnist E. Jean Carroll

E. Jean Carroll leaves a New York court on Friday after a jury order former President Donald Trump $83.3 million for defaming her.
Yuki Iwamura
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AP
E. Jean Carroll leaves a New York court on Friday after a jury order former President Donald Trump $83.3 million for defaming her.

Updated January 26, 2024 at 7:37 PM ET

A New York jury on Friday ordered former President Donald Trump to pay a total of $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll for ruining her credibility as an advice columnist when he called her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault.

The jury awarded Carroll $65 million in punitive damages, $11 million for the damage to her reputation and another $7.3 million. Trump is almost certain to appeal the verdict.

Despite the size of the penalty, the verdict was not unexpected. Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled even before the trial that Trump had in fact defamed Carroll. The jury only had to decide how much Trump owed her — not if he was liable. This is the second time Trump has been ordered pay Carroll; last year he was mandated by a jury to pay $5 million for a separate instance of defamation.

In response, the Trump 2024 campaign issued a statement arguing, without offering evidence, that the trial is a "political weapon."

"Absolutely ridiculous!" said the statement. "I fully disagree with both verdicts, and will be appealing this whole Biden Directed Witch Hunt focused on me and the Republican Party."

The jury's decision comes just days after Trump won the New Hampshire primary and became the 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.

What this case is about

In 2019, Carroll, an advice columnist and freelance writer, accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the '90s. The accusation, which was detailed in her book, was first previewed in a New York magazine article. After the article's publication, 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, Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr blocked the lawsuit, arguing Trump had made the comments in his official capacity as president. This caused the lawsuit to be stuck in court for several years.

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 Trump had defame Carroll in 2019 and that the former president was also liable.

What testimony showed

Carroll herself was the first witness to take the stand — putting her face to face with Trump, who attended the first few days of the trial.

Carroll testified that she felt as if Trump calling her a liar "ended the world I had been living in."

While she used to receive hundreds of emails asking for advice to her column email, she said, she now received fewer than 10 a month. Instead, she said, she received threats and insults. Carroll's lawyer showed the jury several social media posts, messages and emails sent to Carroll in the following days after Trump's statements.

"I sued to get my reputation back," Carroll said.

But Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, argued damages ought not be traced back to Trump himself. Habba also showed the jury several social media posts, but these were posted in the five-hour "gap" between Carroll's allegations being published and Trump making the comments he is being sued over.

Habba also focused on the praise and support Carroll received for her allegation and questioned the writer's motive for suing and for deleting threats sent to her email.

Former US President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower for Manhattan federal court for the second defamation trial against him, in New York City on January 22, 2024.
Charly Triballeau / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower for Manhattan federal court for the second defamation trial against him on Jan. 22.

Trump doubled down on allegations Carroll is lying

After weeks of vowing to take the witness stand in his defense, Trump finally did so on Jan. 25. But it was short-lived — only a few minutes.

In testimony he said he "100%" stood by his previous deposition. Asked by his lawyer if he ever instructed anyone to hurt Carroll, Trump said that he didn't, and just wanted to defend himself, his family and his presidency.

Beyond his testimony, Trump was present for several days of the trial and was vocal about the case outside the courtroom.

During the first day of testimony, he was reprimanded by Judge Kaplan for making comments during Carroll's time on the stand. Carroll's lawyers twice flagged that they could hear him and the jury might be able to as well. Kaplan warned Trump that his right to be present could be taken away.

Trump also spoke out during campaign rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire, and to reporters in New York, about his belief this trial is election interference — often reiterating claims similar to those he was being sued over.

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

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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.