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After decades of zero consequence, Trump has been found liable for sexual abuse and defamation


By Sarah Gill
10th May 2023

@realdonaldtrump

After decades of zero consequence, Trump has been found liable for sexual abuse and defamation

For years, Donald Trump has laughed in the face of sexual misconduct allegations and made claims that certain women weren’t attractive enough to be assaulted, all while ‘grab 'em by the pussy’ essentially became his slogan. Now, over 3 decades after the fact, he’s finally facing some semblance of consequence.

For decades, Donald Trump has existed above the law. But on Tuesday 9 May, a jury found the former President of the United States liable for the sexual abuse and defamation of magazine columnist E Jean Carroll is a civil rape trial. Though Ms Carroll’s claims of rape were rejected, she has been awarded $5 million in damages — and her victory represents a glimmer of hope for all of the survivors of assault at the hands of powerful men.

Almost four years ago to the day, E Jean Carroll first aired her allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump in a first person essay published in New York Magazine. In it, she alleges that Trump — “one of New York’s most famous men” and “No. 20 on the Most Hideous Men of [Her] Life List” — raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 27 years ago.

In the essay, Carroll explains why it was that she didn’t report the assault sooner. “Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun,” she writes. “Also, I am a coward.”

Reliving the incident with meticulous detail, Carroll concludes her harrowing essay by saying: “Whether it’s my age, the fact that I haven’t met anyone fascinating enough over the past couple of decades to feel ‘the sap rising’, as Tom Wolfe put it, or if it’s the blot of the real-estate tycoon, I can’t say. But I have never had sex with anybody ever again.”

The civil rape trial

After years of litigation, E Jean Carroll’s allegations against Donald Trump went before a jury in a trial that began with jury selection on 25 April. Trump consistently denied the allegations, claiming that he had never even met the magazine columnist in the first place. In response, Carroll filed a defamation suit in November 2019, claiming that his denials had tarnished her reputation.

Carroll cited Trump’s statement where he claimed, “I’ve never met this person in my life. She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.”

Trump also said, “I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, okay?” This echoes the his 2016 statement in relation to a woman who claimed to have been groped by Trump on a place in the early 1980s. “Yeah, I’m gonna go after her,” he said sarcastically at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice. That I can tell you. You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.”

Carroll contended that Trump’s comments caused “emotional pain and suffering at the hands of the man who raped her, as well as injury to her reputation, honor, and dignity.”

“Carroll’s professional success is inextricably bound up with her ‘Ask E. Jean’ advice column, where readers look to her for wisdom, wit, honesty, integrity, and courage. By attacking Carroll, Trump has injured the reputation on which she makes her livelihood and attracts readers,” her suit alleged.

Trump did not appear in court to testify or give evidence, a fact which Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said speaks to his liability. “He didn’t even bother to show up here in person,” Kaplan said. “In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” she said … He knows what he did. He knows that he sexually assaulted E Jean Carroll.”

In closing arguments delivered on Monday, Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, maintained that the allegations made against his client were falsely made for the sole purpose of driving sales for her 2019 memoir, but after just over two hours of deliberation, the nine-person jury found that E Jean Carroll had proven that she had been sexually abused by the former president.

They also found that Trump had defamed her by making comments calling her case a “hoax and a lie”.

What comes next?

Though E Jean Carroll’s accusation of rape was rejected, the fact that Donald Trump has finally been held liable for sexual assault and defamation marks a huge victory.

However, the former president is expected to appeal the judgement, taking to social media to say that the verdict represents “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time”.

In September 2020, the list of women who have publicly made accusations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump rose to 26 as Amy Dorris alleged he forced his tongue down her throat and groped her at 1997 US Open. Despite the allegations and conversation surrounding him, his political standing was somehow untarnished.

The question hangs in the air: Will the fact that Donald Trump is now a legally defined sexual predator affect his 2024 presidential bid?

Featured image via @realdonaldtrump on Instagram