In the latest development in former President Donald Trump's voluminous current legal battles, Judge Lewis Kaplan on Thursday denied the current GOP frontrunner's bid to dismiss a defamation suit brought by author E. Jean Carroll, as the Washington Examiner reports.
The case at issue was brought by Carroll back in 2019, but it has been on hold since Kaplan denied a prior motion to merge it with a separate case against Trump in which a jury recently found the former president liable for sexual abuse and defamation and awarded the author $5 million in damages.
In the current case, attorneys for Trump asserted presidential immunity, claimed that the statements at issue were not defamatory per se, said the comments amounted to nonactionable opinion, and contended that Carroll had consented to the statements.
Kaplan disagreed, finding that the grounds on which Trump sought summary judgment in the case “are without merit,” so not only will the case move forward, Carroll also recently moved to amend her complaint to include new, allegedly defamatory comments made by Trump in a CNN town hall.
Referring to Carroll as a “whack job,” Trump said during the televised event, “I have no idea who this woman is. This is a fake story, a made-up story. We had a horrible Clinton-appointed judge. He was horrible. He allowed her to put everything in. He allowed us to put nothing in. This is a fake story.”
This case – and the aforementioned one – stemmed from an encounter between Trump and Carroll at a Manhattan department store in the 1990s in which the latter claimed that the former raped her in a fitting room.
In the wake of the jury's finding of liability in the prior case, Trump has filed a request for a new trial or, in the alternative, a reduction in the damages awarded to Carroll, calling the verdict “grossly excessive,” as CBS News reported.
According to Trump's team, $2 million of the award represents an unjust amount in that the jury explicitly did not find him liable for raping Carroll, and his attorneys also argued that the compensatory damage award on the defamation claim was largely based on “speculation” about the degree of exposure the statements at issue actually received.
A lawyer for Carroll, Roberta Kaplan, opined, “Trump's arguments are frivolous. The jury carefully considered the evidence that Ms. Carroll presented, and Trump did not put on a single witness of his own. This time, Trump will not be able to escape the consequence of his actions.”
Clearly piqued by the ongoing back-and-forth with Carroll, Trump this week filed a countersuit against Carroll, alleging that she defamed him on television in the wake of the jury verdict in the earlier case, as NBC News notes.
The day after the jury verdict came down, Carroll appeared on CNN and was asked about her feelings when she heard that Trump had not been found liable for rape.
“Well, I just immediately [said] in my own head: 'Oh, yes, he did. Oh yes, he did,'” Carroll replied, uttering the statement Trump now alleges was defamatory.
Trump's lawyers now contend that Carroll made that statement “with actual malice and ill will with an intent to significantly and spitefully harm and attack” their client's reputation, and they are seeking a full retraction from Carroll and an amount in compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees.
Clearly, the bad feelings between Trump and Carroll will not be easing anytime soon, and the former president appears to have no concerns about adding this set of claims to his already lengthy list of legal entanglements.