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Attorney leaves door open to Trump’s testifying in civil rape trial

In a letter to the judge, Joe Tacopina said Trump won't come to court "unless and until he is called by either party to testify.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits at the defense table
Former President Donald Trump sits at the defense table in a Manhattan court in New York, on April 4.Seth Wenig / Pool via Getty Images file

An attorney for Donald Trump indicated Wednesday that the former president might take the witness stand in a civil rape trial scheduled to begin next week.

In a letter to the judge presiding over writer E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit, Joe Tacopina said it would be too difficult for Trump to attend the entire trial for logistical reasons tied to his former office, but he left the door open to the possibility he could testify in person.

Tacopina asked senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan to tell jurors: "While no litigant is required to appear at a civil trial, the absence of the defendant in this matter, by design, avoids the logistical burdens that his presence, as the former president, would cause the courthouse and New York City. Accordingly, his presence is excused unless and until he is called by either party to testify.”

Tacopina declined to comment on the letter, saying he's busy preparing for trial.

Trump, who is on the defense witness list, sat for a videotaped deposition over Carroll's claims that he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s and then defamed her by accusing her of making the story up for personal profit.

Trump has denied the rape claim, and he repeatedly insulted Carroll during his October deposition, calling her a “whack job” who’s “not my type.” He also mistook a picture of Carroll from the 1990s as being a photo of his former wife Marla Maples, according to deposition excerpts that were unsealed in January.

Trump was not on Carroll's witness list. Language in a February court filing appears to allow her the possibility of calling witnesses from Trump's list.

In a letter to Kaplan, the judge, later Wednesday, Carroll's lawyer signaled that they were not planning to call Trump as a witness and that his taped deposition should suffice.

Roberta Kaplan said that Carroll “has a right to play Donald Trump’s deposition at trial” and that there's “no need for him to testify live.”

Kaplan asked both sides whether their clients planned to attend the trial, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

In his letter, Tacopina recounted his experience with Trump this month in Manhattan criminal court, where Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Tacopina said Trump "was always accompanied by approximately a dozen Secret Service agents," a major highway was briefly shut down, and the courthouse "was frozen while he was present" while traffic was shut down for a three-block radius.

Kaplan, in her letter, said "the notion that Mr. Trump would not appear as some sort of favor to the City of New York—and that the jury should be instructed as much—'taxes the credulity of the credulous.'”

"Mr. Trump has no right to a judicial endorsement of his (flimsy) excuse," Kaplan wrote, adding that Carroll "has made clear that she will attend the entire trial and will testify under oath before a jury of her peers."