July 24, 2024

E Jean Carroll, the advice columnist suing Donald Trump for rape, testified on Wednesday in the civil trial of the former president for alleged battery and defamation.

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me,” she said.

Before Carroll took the stand, however, the judge in the case, Lewis A Kaplan, rebuked Trump for an “entirely inappropriate” statement on his social media platform, Truth Social, shortly before proceedings began.

Kaplan warned the former president’s lawyers that such statements about the case could bring more legal problems upon himself.

Trump, who has not attended so far, called the case “a made-up scam”. He also called Carroll’s lawyer “a political operative” and alluded to a DNA issue Kaplan has ruled cannot be part of the case.

“This is a fraudulent and false story – Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote.

Lawyers for Carroll, whose suit includes claims Trump previously defamed her by publicly calling her case a “hoax”, “scam”, “lie” and “complete con job”, mentioned his new statement to Kaplan.

The judge told Trump’s lawyers: “What seems to be the case is that your client is basically endeavoring, certainly, to speak to his quote-unquote public, but, more troubling, the jury in this case about stuff that has no business being spoken about.”

He also called Trump’s post “a public statement that, on the face of it, seems entirely inappropriate”.

The Trump attorney Joe Tacopina noted that jurors are told not to follow any news or online commentary about the case. But he said he would ask Trump “to refrain from any further posts about this case”.

“I hope you’re more successful,” Kaplan said, adding that Trump “may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability”.

The trial opened on Tuesday with Carroll’s lawyer, Shawn Crowley, telling the jury of three women and six men she was seeking “to clear her name, to pursue justice and to get her life back”.

Carroll alleges the former president raped her in a New York department store changing room in 1996, then attempted to “destroy her” by accusing her of lying when she went public years later.

Beginning her testimony on Wednesday, Carroll said: “I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try and get my life back.”

Tacopina previously told the jury he will show that Carroll conspired with other women to falsely accuse the former president of sexual assault because they “hate” him.

Tacopina said Carroll went after Trump for political ends, to sell a book and for public attention.

“The evidence will show you that what E Jean Carroll is doing is an affront to justice,” he said.

As it is a civil case, the jury will decide on the balance of probabilities whether Trump raped Carroll and then defamed her, and award damages if so.

Carroll’s legal team is expected to call other witnesses including two women she claims to have told about the alleged rape shortly after it happened, Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin, who have corroborated the account in interviews.

Crowley told the jurors they will also hear from two other women allegedly sexually assaulted by Trump in a similar manner.

Jessica Leeds accuses Trump of assaulting her on a plane in 1979 by grabbing her breasts and trying to put his hand up her skirt.

Natasha Stoynoff, a writer for People magazine, is expected to testify that in 2005 Trump led her into an empty room and forcibly kissed her until he was interrupted.

When the two women spoke up, Trump attacked them as liars in a similar manner to his response to Carroll’s accusations.

Crowley told the jury it will hear excerpts from Trump’s deposition late last year and other video in which he will be damned by his own words.

“You’ll hear him bragging about doing almost the same thing he did to Ms Carroll to other women,” said Crowley.

Trump’s legal team said last week that the former president would not testify. But on Monday, Tacopina told the judge the matter was not settled and that Trump could still be called as a witness.

Associated Press contributed reporting