A longtime friend of E. Jean Carroll’s testified in federal court Tuesday that the writer called her “minutes” after she alleges Donald Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store, while an attorney for the former president told the judge that his client would not take the stand.
On the same day Lisa Birnbach described a 1996 phone conversation with Carroll after the alleged incident, Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan that Trump would not testify.
Kaplan had repeatedly asked for guidance about whether Trump would take the witness stand so the courthouse could address security concerns, but Tacopina had been noncommittal until Tuesday.
Trump is under no obligation to appear in court because the case is civil, not criminal, but he was one of only two defense witnesses listed by his attorneys. He has repeatedly denied Carroll's allegations, at one point saying she's "not my type."
“It is his call,” Kaplan told Tacopina after the lawyer said Trump would not be testifying. "You understand that. I understand that. He understands that, right?" the judge asked.
"Correct. Of course," Tacopina replied.
Trump sat for a videotaped deposition in October, and Carroll's attorney told the judge she plans to play some of that testimony for the jury this week.
Earlier in the day, Birnbach testified about a phone call she got from Carroll in 1996. "You're not going to believe what just happened to me," Birnbach recalled Carroll saying.
Birnbach, a fellow writer who had recently interviewed Trump, described Carroll as sounding "breathless, hyperventilating" and "emotional."
"Her voice was doing all sorts of things," Birnbach told jurors in the Manhattan courtroom, where Carroll is suing Trump for battery and defamation.
Birnbach said Carroll told her she had been shopping with Trump in Bergdorf Goodman before he accosted her in a dressing room and "penetrated" her.
"I said: 'Jean, he raped you. You should go to the police,'" Birnbach testified. "She said: 'No, no. I don't want to go to the police.'"
Birnbach said that she offered to escort Carroll to the police station but that she refused to go before she made Birnbach vow not to tell anyone else what she had just told her.
"She said, 'Promise me you will never speak of this again and you will tell no one,' and I promised her both those things," Birnbach said, adding that she kept her word.
"It was her life, her story, not my story, and she clearly didn't want to tell anyone else what happened, and I honored that," Birnbach said. Over time, she said, she "buried" the information in her mind, and "as life went on it was easier not to think about it."
She said they did not speak about the incident again until 2019, when Carroll was writing a book in which she went public with her account.
"After I read the excerpts, I called her and told her how brave she was," Birnbach said.
She said she was testifying voluntarily, even though she had been subjected to online hate when she first supported Carroll's account publicly in 2019.
"I am here because my good friend, who is a good person," had "told me something terrible that happened to her," Birnbach said, and "I want the world to know that she was telling the truth."
Trump, who was president when the book came out, has denied Carroll's claims, calling them a "hoax" and a "con job."
Birnbach, one of the authors of the best-selling "The Official Preppy Handbook," acknowledged she is a longtime Democrat who has been critical of Trump in the past. Asked by Carroll's attorney whether she had ever referred to Trump as a "narcissistic sociopath," Birnbach said, "That sounds right."
Another Trump accuser testifies
Also testifying Tuesday was Jessica Leeds, an 81-year-old retired stockbroker who has claimed Trump groped her on an airplane in the late 1970s.
Leeds testified that the alleged incident happened in 1978 or 1979 on a flight to New York. She said she had been sitting in coach when a flight attendant asked whether she wanted to move up to first class.
"I said yes, of course," Leeds said. Her new seatmate introduced himself as Donald Trump. "I did not know who he was," she said.
She said that they chatted for a while and that after they ate, he suddenly "tried to kiss me" and started grabbing her breast. It was "like he had 40 zillion hands," Leeds said.
She said that while the alleged assault seemed as though it went on "forever," it probably lasted "a few seconds." She said she was able to break away from Trump and went back to her seat in coach.
She said she never told anyone until 2016, when it appeared he had a realistic shot at the presidency.
"I started telling everyone ... my family, my children, my friends, neighbors, book club, anybody who would listen to me, because I thought he was not the kind of person we want as president," Leeds said.
Trump has denied Leeds' account, and he mocked her after she came forward shortly before the election, saying, "She would not be my first choice."
After she was done testifying, Leeds expressed support for Carroll outside the courthouse, telling reporters, "Her story rings true to me."
She also said it was "nerve-wracking" being on the witness stand. "It’s not fun, and I hope I never have to tell the story again," she said.