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Agitated Trump says 'I would love it' after judge threatens to boot him from E. Jean Carroll defamation trial

Trump complained repeatedly to his lawyers during Carroll's testimony, leading U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan to ask him "to keep his voice down so the jury does not overhear it.”
E. Jean Carroll arrives at federal court in New York on January 17, 2024.
E. Jean Carroll arrives at federal court in New York on Wednesday morning.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images file

The judge presiding over E. Jean Carroll's damages trial in New York federal court warned former President Donald Trump on Wednesday that he might bar him from the courtroom for grousing loudly and animatedly to his lawyer during Carroll's testimony about how he repeatedly defamed her.

"Mr. Trump has the right to be present here. That right can be forfeited, and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive" and "if he disregards court orders," U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan told Trump and his attorney after the jury had left the courtroom.

"Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial. I understand you are very eager for me to do that," Kaplan said.

"I would love it. I would love it," Trump responded.

"I know you would, because you just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently. You just can't," Kaplan shot back before an exasperated Trump threw his hands in the air. "Neither can you," Trump said.

Trump returned to court after lunch and posted two attacks against Kaplan on his social media platform, Truth Social, at about the same time, calling him a "seething and hostile Clinton-appointed Judge." "He is abusive, rude, and obviously not impartial but, that’s the way this crooked system works!" he said in one of the posts.

In another post a short time later, Trump said, Kaplan "should be sanctioned for his abuse of power — No wonder our Country is going to Hell!" He told reporters after court: "That's a nasty man. He's a nasty judge. He's a Trump-hating guy."

Trump, who was found liable last year for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll, had appeared visibly upset throughout Carroll's testimony.

“I am here because Donald Trump assaulted me, and when I wrote about it he lied and he shattered my reputation,” Carroll, 80, told the jury.

Trump repeatedly shook his head in anger and made comments to his lawyer throughout Carroll's testimony. At one point, Kaplan told Trump's attorney to sit down after he denied her objection. Trump slammed the table and commented to his attorney, "nasty guy," apparently referring to the judge.

During the morning break, Carroll lawyer Shawn Crowley told Kaplan that Trump had been loudly making comments, saying some statements were "false" and making cracks about Carroll's memory.

Before the jury returned, Kaplan said, "I’m just going to ask Mr. Trump to take special care to keep his voice down when he's conferring with counsel so that the jury does not overhear it.”

The request didn't take. When the jury broke for lunch, Crowley told the judge that Trump had continued his commentary and that some jurors could have heard him say "this really is a con job" and "it's a witch hunt."

That led to the back-and-forth with Kaplan.

After the parties returned from lunch, one of Trump's attorneys, Michael Madaio, complained to Kaplan that he had issued his warning to Trump "without giving us a moment to respond" to the Carroll team's claim that he was disruptive. Madaio told Kaplan he had displayed a "general hostility towards the defense" and asked him to recuse himself from the case.

"Denied," the judge said.

When Carroll first took the stand in the morning, she walked past Trump, who was sitting at the defense table, as he looked in a different direction. She testified that Trump has repeatedly told lies about her since 2019, when she first came forward with allegations that he sexually assaulted her in a dressing room in a Manhattan department store in 1996.

She said she'd "expected him to respond" to her allegation when she first went public.

"I thought he was going to deny it and say it was consensual, which it was not," Carroll said. Instead, Trump said, "I have never met this woman in my life," she said, adding, "That is a lie."

"He said I made it up to sell a book, and that is a lie," and he "said my false accusations damaged the real victims of assault, and that is a lie," Carroll said. She said Trump, who was president at the time, declared that "people need to pay dearly" and that "I have paid as dearly as possible."

Trump's statements "ended the world I had been living in," Carroll said, adding that she found herself the target of hateful attacks from his supporters across Twitter and other social media. "It happened instantaneously," she said, with many of her attackers using Trump's words.

"It was so unexpected," she said, and the "messages have never stopped."

"I receive them all the time, sometimes hundreds a day," she added. The jury was shown several of the threats she received, many with graphic threats of violence.

Her lawyer ended her direct examination by showing Trump's Truth Social posts bashing Carroll on Tuesday, while he was in court.

"I want my reputation back," Carroll said.

On cross-examination, Trump lawyer Alina Habba asked Carroll whether she was called a liar online in the five hours between when New York magazine ran an article with her accusations and Trump's public comments. "Yes, because the White House denied it" in the New York article, Carroll said. Asked whether she sued the White House over the denial, Carroll said, "No."

Carroll acknowledged that she never reported the threats against her to the police and that she'd deleted a number of threatening messages until last year. Habba asked her whether she'd known that she had a duty to preserve documents related to the case. "Yes; I didn't realize the replies were included in that," she responded.

Habba then asked the judge for a mistrial, as "the witness just admitted deleting evidence." Kaplan responded: "Denied. The jury will disregard everything Ms. Habba just said."

Kaplan had chided Habba throughout the day for not following his orders and procedure. When she tried to read from a document in the afternoon that hadn't been entered as evidence, Kaplan told her they were going to take a break and “during that time you might want to refresh your memory about how it is you get a document into evidence.”

In opening statements Tuesday, Crowley told the jury Trump “didn’t just deny the assault” when Carroll broke her silence — “he went much, much further," Crowley said. "He said he had no idea who she was. He accused her of lying and making up a story to make money and to advance some political conspiracy against him. And he threatened her. He said she should pay dearly for speaking out against him."

"Donald Trump was president when he made those statements, and he used the world's biggest microphone to attack Ms. Carroll, to humiliate her and to destroy her reputation," she said.

Trump, 77, was found liable last year for sexually abusing Carroll and defaming her after he left the White House in a separate civil trial and was hit with a $5 million verdict, which he's appealing. Kaplan used that verdict to find Trump liable for the remarks he made while he was president, as well, so the jury in the current case will be deciding only what amount of damages to award her.

Crowley noted that Trump had continued his attacks since the last verdict, including the posts on Truth Social while he was in court.

"He sat in this courthouse this morning. And while he was sitting there, he posted more defamatory statements, more lies about Ms. Carroll and this case. By our count, by our last count, 22 posts just today. Think about that. Think about that when you consider how much money will it take to get him to stop," she said.

Fresh off his victory in the Iowa caucuses Monday, Trump had been in court for jury selection Tuesday but left before opening statements to attend a campaign rally in New Hampshire. The juxtaposition of his subdued courtroom appearances and his boisterous campaign events is a harbinger of his year ahead. In addition to the Carroll trial, he also faces four criminal trials and a verdict in a civil fraud trial that could devastate his real estate business while he seeks another term in the White House.

He has denied attacking Carroll and maintains the case is “fiction.”

Habba told the jury in her opening Tuesday that Trump's legal team will show Carroll shouldn't get any damages because the "evidence will show that Ms. Carroll's reputation was not harmed by President Trump's statements. In fact, it's the exact opposite. She has gained more fame, more notoriety than she could ever have dreamed of."

"She is looking for you to give her a windfall because some people on social media said mean things about her. But in today's day and age, the internet always has something to say, and it's not always going to be nice," Habba added.