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Trump storms out of courtroom during closing arguments in E. Jean Carroll's defamation damages trial

Carroll was seeking at least $10 million in damages from the former president for repeatedly defaming her. Trump was ultimately ordered by the jury to pay her $83.3 million.
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Donald Trump abruptly stormed out of court during closing arguments in the E. Jean Carroll damages trial Friday as her attorney was telling jurors the former president is a liar who thinks "the rules don't apply to him."

Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan had told the jury that Trump spent the "entire trial continuing to engage in defamation" against Carroll by calling her sexual abuse allegations against him a "con job."

"Ms. Carroll did not make it up, the sexual assault happened and his denials were all complete lies," Kaplan said.

The jury ultimately found that Carroll suffered considerable damages as a result of Trump's attacks on her and ordered that he pay her $83.3 million.

Trump returned to the courtroom for his own attorney's closing about an hour after he first walked out. He was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

After Trump's exit during her closing, Kaplan told the jury "he thinks with his wealth and power he can treat Ms. Carroll how he wants and will suffer no consequences." Trump, who's called Carroll "sick" and a "wack job" among other insults "can't attack her just because he feels like it," Kaplan said.

This trial was one of several that Trump, who returned to the courtroom on Thursday two days after his victory in the New Hampshire primary, is facing this year as he campaigns for re-election. And the stakes are high. In addition to Friday's verdict, Trump is all but certain to face verdicts in his New York fraud trial plus an appellate decision on his claims that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution over Jan. 6 all before the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary.

The trial got off to a rocky start Friday for the former president after he and his lawyer Alina Habba arrived in the courtroom around 10 minutes late. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan admonished her tardiness and then later threatened to place her “in the lockup” after she objected to his decision not to allow her to use tweets she wanted to display. Kaplan had said he couldn’t read the tweets. “This is entirely illegible,” he said.

He also issued a not-so-veiled warning to her client, whom he reprimanded last week for making loud comments during Carroll’s testimony, saying, “no one is to say anything other than opposing counsel” during closings. He also warned “there are to be no interruptions” during the proceedings.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower in New York
Former President Donald Trump outside a Trump Tower in New York on Friday. Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

In her argument, Roberta Kaplan urged the jury to hit Trump with a massive punitive damages award to stop him from continuing to defame Carroll and pointed to testimony at his 2022 deposition where he bragged that his Mar-a-Lago estate was worth $1.5 billion and his Doral property was worth over $2 billion.

Trump has repeatedly offered similar values in his own defense in his New York civil fraud trial, where New York Attorney General Letitia James has sought to prove he inflated his net worth and the value of his assets.

The attorney noted that Trump has testified that he's "worth billions of dollars." "He could pay a million dollars a day for ten years and still have money in the bank," she said.

“He doesn’t care about the law or truth but does care about money and your decision on punitive damages is the only hope that he stops,” Kaplan said, asking the jury to make him pay “lots and lots of money.”

Kaplan echoed one of the defamatory statements from June 2019 that Carroll sued Trump over — his contention that her allegation "is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations." "Now is the time to make him pay for it dearly," she said.

In her closing, Habba said Trump was telling "the truth" when he denied her allegations — a claim the judge ordered stricken from the record because the former president had already been found liable for the attack.

After Habba started talking about another topic the judge had previously said was off-limits, he warned her that if she continued to violate orders there would be "consequences."

Despite the warning, Habba repeatedly cast doubt on Carroll's accusation. Habba also told the jury that Carroll "has failed to show she is entitled to any damages at all" because Trump is not to blame for the number of threats she received online after she went public. "He has as much control of social media users as he does the weather," she said.

"President Trump should not have to pay for their threats. He does not condone them. All he did was tell his truth," Habba said, leading to another objection that was sustained by the judge.

She also disputed that Carroll had suffered any emotional damages, saying "she was happy to have the support, the fame and the praise that she always craved" after she went public with her accusation.

"She actively sought the comments and the attention," Habba said.

In a rebuttal argument, Carroll's attorney Shawn Crowley said Habba had "completely misstated the facts" and made it sound like her client had asked to be abused.

Trump, she said, "lied and defamed her over and over again and that has been proven. He did those things and yet his attorney says it is her fault." Crowley said Habba argued that Trump "had a right to lie in order to defend himself."

"His truth was a lie and he has no right to say it," she continued. "That may be how Donald Trump lives his life but that’s not how it works under the law."

Closing arguments concluded around 12:40 p.m. ET and the jury began deliberations around an hour later. They came to a verdict in just under three hours.

Trump delivered a dramatic but brief testimony on Thursday. Kaplan had placed strict limits on what Trump could say on the stand given that he'd already been found liable, a finding he could not contest. Nevertheless, after Habba asked whether he'd made the comments to defend himself, Trump said: "Yes. I consider it a false accusation."

The judge had indicated before Trump's testimony that he would tell the jury to ignore such declarations before it begins deliberating. "The jury will be instructed to say regardless of what he says today, it did occur, and that is the law," Kaplan said.

A different jury found Trump liable last year for sexually abusing Carroll in a New York department store in the 1990s and for defaming her by calling her a "wack job" and her claims a hoax. Kaplan used that verdict to find Trump liable in the current case, which centers on similar remarks he made about her while he was president in 2019. The jury was tasked only with determining how much or little the writer should be paid.

Trump didn’t attend last year's trial and backed out of testifying, but he has been in court almost every day of the current trial. The trial was postponed for three days at the beginning of the week after a juror fell ill and Habba told the judge she’d been exposed to the coronavirus and was feeling sick. She tested negative for the virus.