Trump Staged a One-Man Walkout During Closing Arguments of E. Jean Carroll’s Rape Trial
“We all have to follow the law,” Carroll's attorney said on Friday. "Donald Trump, however, acts as if these rules and laws don’t apply to him.”
On Friday afternoon, closing arguments began in the second trial related to writer E. Jean Carroll’s allegations that former President Donald Trump raped her in the 1990s. (This trial will determine how much Trump must pay in damages for defaming Carroll in 2019 by claiming she lied about the assault.) And during Carroll’s attorney’s closing arguments on Friday, Trump stood up and left the courtroom. His one-man walk-out came as Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan (who has no relation to the trial’s judge, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan), told the jury that Trump did not respect the prior verdict that found him liable, “not even for 24 hours,” before defaming Carroll again last year. “We all have to follow the law,” she said. “Donald Trump, however, acts as if these rules and laws don’t apply to him.”
“The record will reflect that Mr. Trump just rose and walked out of the courtroom,” Judge Kaplan said after the dramatic moment. Trump eventually returned for his own attorney’s closing arguments.
Trump’s walkout was a distinctly petty and disruptive stunt, but pretty much all of his time spent in the Manhattan courtroom has been predictably chaotic. This is a man who, according to NBC, “posted about Carroll around three dozen times on his Truth Social website” on Monday alone. Last week, Trump and Judge Kaplan sparred over Trump’s loud interruptions during Carroll’s testimony, in which he said “Carroll’s statements are false” and called the trial a “witch hunt.” As Carroll spoke, Trump kept angrily shaking his head and making disparaging comments about her, all while sitting within earshot of the jury. This prompted the judge to almost kick Trump out of the courtroom. Trump, not one to go without posting through it, then diagnosed Judge Kaplan with “a major case of Trump Derangement Syndrome” in a Truth Social post.
Trump’s Friday walkout comes after he very briefly testified on Thursday, though his comments were at times stricken from the record as he tried to insist Carroll was lying about being raped. The former president was already found liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll by a different New York jury in May, which saw him ordered to pay Carroll $5 million in damages for defaming and calling her a liar in 2022. This latest trial concerns the allegedly defamatory comments Trump made while he was president in 2019.
During Trump’s testimony on Thursday, which lasted just three minutes, his attorney, Alina Habba, asked whether he stood by his claims that Carroll’s allegations against him are a “hoax” and “con job,” to which Trump responded, “100%, yes.” Asked if he told anyone to hurt or attack Carroll, he said, “No. I just wanted to defend myself, my family, and frankly the presidency.” Kaplan ordered the rest of his comments after the word “no” to be stricken from the record, since the former president was already found liable for defaming Carroll.
In Roberta Kaplan’s closing arguments, during which Trump left the courtroom, she called for at least $10 million in compensatory damages for Carroll. “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. She called on the jury to make him pay “lots and lots of money” to discourage the president from defaming Carroll again. This comes after an expert testified on Carroll’s behalf this week that the cost of repairing her reputation from the harm inflicted by Trump’s attacks could stand between $7 and $12 million. Shawn Crowley, another attorney for Carroll, also told the jury on Friday: “Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a campaign rally. It’s not a press event. It’s a court of law and Miss Carroll’s life. Donald Trump sexually assaulted her. He defamed her. He is not the victim.”
In Habba’s closing arguments, she first insisted that Trump was telling “the truth” in denying Carroll’s allegations, which Judge Kaplan promptly had stricken from the record and told the jury to disregard because, again, Trump was already found liable. Habba also argued that Carroll “has failed to show she is entitled to any damages at all,” and denied that Trump is responsible for the online vitriol and threats Carroll received as a result of the then president’s highly visible attacks against her: “He has as much control of social media users as he does the weather,” Habba said. “President Trump should not have to pay for their threats. He does not condone them. All he did was tell his truth.” This led to another objection from Judge Kaplan.
Last week, Carroll took to the stand to testify about the severe trauma and reputational damage she accuses Trump of inflicting on her. “To have the president of the United States, one of the most powerful persons on earth, call me a liar for three days and say it 26 times—I counted them—it ended the world I had been living in, and I lived in a new world,” she said. Carroll testified that she still receives frightening messages from Trump’s supporters to this day, who call her a liar or disparage her appearance as Trump himself did.
This iteration of the trial was postponed for three days this week starting Monday when one juror became ill and Habba was exposed to covid, though she ultimately tested negative. The jury is expected to give a decision on Friday afternoon, with the judge telling jurors they have until 4:30 p.m. to either issue a ruling or ask to stay later.