Former President Donald Trump was called by his lawyer to testify in his own defense in E. Jean Carroll’s civil defamation case this afternoon, and the proceedings quickly went off the rails. The former president spoke out of turn, made remarks that had to be struck from the record, and muttered about being persecuted on his way out the door.
Trump has been present in person for much of the New York trial, which will determine how much he owes Carroll for defaming her after she accused him of raping her in a dressing room at a Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. A jury had already determined in a separate case that Trump must pay Carroll $5 million in damages after it was found he sexually abused and defamed her. This afternoon’s proceedings are part of a trial to determine whether Trump owes additional damages for defaming the writer in 2019.
Before even being called by his attorney Alina Habba to take the stand, Trump was reprimanded by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan for speaking out of turn, according to multiple reports from inside the New York courtroom.
As Kaplan explained the terms and restrictions of Trump’s testimony to those present, Carroll’s lawyer Shawn Crowley complained to the judge that he could hear Trump speaking under his breath, saying that he “intends to say he doesn’t know her and never met her.”
Trump spoke out of turn again while Habba was speaking a few minutes later, according to CBS News.
“I don’t know who the woman is. I never met this woman,” he reportedly said, before Kaplan again reprimanded him.
Before Trump took the witness stand, Kaplan reportedly reminded the room of the facts of the case before the jury returned, saying: “Mr. Trump in fact sexually abused Ms. Carroll by forcibly and without consent inserting his fingers into her vagina” and that “Ms. Carroll did not make up her claim of forcible sexual abuse,” according to ABC News.
According to multiple reporters in the room, Trump’s time on the stand was brief, speaking for less than three to four minutes.
“Do you stand by your testimony in your deposition?” Habba asked Trump when he took the stand.
“100% yes,” Trump said.
“Did you deny the allegation to defend yourself?” Habba asked.
“Yes I did, that’s exactly right,” Trump said.
“Mr. President, did you ever instruct anyone to hurt Ms. Carroll?”
“No, I just wanted to defend myself, my family and frankly the presidency,” Trump answered.
Kaplan reportedly struck everything after the word “no” from the record. Carroll’s attorneys then, in cross-examination, asked if this was the first Carroll trial he had come to in person. He reportedly responded in the affirmative.
The former president couldn’t leave without making another minor scene. As he exited the courtroom, he muttered: “This is not America. Not America. This is not America,” his voice crescendoing as he walked out, according to the Washington Post.
The relatively tame (for Trump) official proceedings may have put a gloss of normalcy on the historically unprecedented fact that a former president and current presidential candidate, who is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, testified in his own defense, in person, as part of a civil trial in which he was found to have sexually abused a woman.
Trump made sure the short Q&A in court wasn’t all his supporters heard from him on the matter Thursday. In the hours leading up to his official testimony, Trump posted about Carroll and the trial on Truth Social 37 times in the span of just a few minutes.