June 16, 2024

(Bloomberg) — The New York author who sued Donald Trump claiming he raped her in a department store in the 1990s testified in graphic detail about the alleged assault, breaking down at times and saying she even bought bullets in fear of the blowback from her accusation.

Most Read from Bloomberg

E. Jean Carroll, a journalist and former Elle magazine advice columnist, told a jury of six men and three women in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday that she kept silent about the alleged attack in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room for decades, believing Trump would destroy her if she spoke up. That’s exactly what he tried to do when she went public in 2019, Carroll said.

“I am here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it he said it didn’t happen,” Carroll, 79, said under questioning by her lawyer. She added: “He shattered my reputation and I’m trying to get my life back.”

The jury will decide whether Trump, 76, is liable for sexually assaulting Carroll and then defaming her as recently as last year by claiming on social media that she fabricated the attack to sell a book. If they find him liable, the jurors will decide how much he must pay Carroll. The case has brought new attention to past claims about Trump’s treatment of women that failed to derail his 2016 presidential campaign, as he runs in the 2024 race.

Carroll Breaks Down

Carroll began sobbing on the witness stand as she spoke of “finally” getting her day in court, but she stopped her lawyer from asking the judge for a break and quickly composed herself.

“This is my moment,” she said. “I’m not going to sit here and cry and waste everybody’s time.”

Trump has denied wrongdoing and argues the case is part of a broader political “witch hunt.” He says that includes his recent indictment in a case brought by the Manhattan district attorney as well as criminal probes of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. On Wednesday morning he blasted Carroll’s lawsuit again in a social media post, calling it a “scam” and deriding his accuser as “Ms. Bergdorf Goodman.” He has said the alleged attack is clearly fabricated, given Carroll’s age and because she is not his “type.”

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina signaled during his opening argument on Tuesday that he’ll seek to undermine Carroll’s story by presenting evidence that she is motivated by an animus toward Trump and that she waited too long to come forward with her claim if it were true.

Read More: Trump Lawyer Tacopina Has a Lot in Common With His Client

Trump hasn’t said yet whether he will testify in his defense or attend any part of the trial.

Bought Ammunition

Carroll told the jurors that the blowback she experienced after making her allegations public was so severe that she bought new bullets for a gun she owns. The crude emails were driven by Trump calling her a liar from the White House, she said.

“Boy, it hit me and it laid me low — I lost my reputation,” she said. “Even people who knew me looked at me with pity, and the people who had no opinion now thought I was a liar and hated me.”

She told the jury: “My God, the force of hatred coming at me was staggering.”

Asked to describe how the alleged assault unfolded, Carroll testified that she and Trump ran into each other at the luxury department store while shopping. She told the jury she agreed to help him pick out a gift for a woman.

Kidding Around

Carroll said Trump asked her to go to the sixth-floor lingerie department, where they eventually found a lacy bodysuit that he jokingly suggested she try on. She said she told him he should try it on instead, thinking he would put the bodysuit on over his pants.

Carroll told the jurors she agreed to go into a dressing room with him, thinking it was an amusing moment, “sort of like a Saturday Night Live sketch.”

She said Trump then “shut the door and shoved me against the wall. He shoved me so hard my head banged. I was extremely confused and suddenly realized that what I thought was happening was not happening.”

She testified that she didn’t scream but instead fought to get away, even though Trump is much larger than she is.

‘I Can Still Feel It’

“My whole reason for being alive in that moment was to get out of that room,” she said. She said she was “trying to wriggle out from under him, but he had pulled down my tights” and assaulted her with his fingers, “which was extremely painful. He put his hand inside of me and curved his finger. As I’m sitting here today I can still feel it.”

“I’m proud to say I did get out,” Carroll told the court. “I got my knee up and pushed him back.”

She fought back tears as she described the guilt she felt over why she went into the dressing room with Trump.

“I was ashamed,” she said. “I thought it was my fault. Because I was flirting with him.”

Reid Hoffman Is Out

While the jury was on a break, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan issued a ruling barring Trump’s legal team from telling the panel that a billionaire donor to the Democratic Party was helping to finance Carroll’s suit. Trump argued the financing by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman undermined Carroll’s credibility.

Read More: LinkedIn Co-Founder Defends Funding Trump Rape Accuser Suit

“There is virtually nothing there as to credibility, and even if there were, the unfair prejudicial effect of going into this subject would very substantially outweigh any probative value,” Kaplan said. “The subject is closed.”

The day started with the judge warning Tacopina about his client’s social media habits, telling the lawyer that the Trump post calling the case a scam and going after Carroll’s lawyer as a “political operative” could expose the former president to “a new potential source of liability.”

Read More: Trump Post About Rape Accuser ‘Inappropriate,’ Judge Says

In his post Trump also referred to the infamous dress that White House intern Monica Lewinsky wore in an assignation with Bill Clinton. He suggested Carroll was bluffing about male DNA found on her own clothes and that it would only have exonerated him if she had accepted his last-minute offer to provide a sample.

That drew an exasperated reply from the judge, since Carroll finally gave up on seeking a sample from Trump after many delays.

“He refused for three years to give a DNA sample, and now he wants it in the case?” Kaplan fumed.

The case is Carroll v. Trump, 22-cv-10016, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

(Updates with Carroll’s testimony about blowback in first, second and third sections and judge’s response to Trump’s social media post at bottom.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.