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E. Jean Carroll testifies against Trump once more

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump went face-to-face with his accuser, E. Jean Carroll, in a New York courtroom today. Carroll is seeking damages against Trump for defamation stemming from when she went public with her account of a sexual attack in the mid-1990s. Today, she testified about the fallout from Trump's repeated false assertion that she made up her story. NPR's Andrea Bernstein was there. She's on the line now from outside the courthouse. Hey there.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: OK, so we got to hear from Carroll on the stand today. What did she say?

BERNSTEIN: It was an extraordinary scene. Many women have accused Trump of sexual assault and then lying about them when they speak up. But here was a woman who Trump has verbally attacked, sitting just 30 feet away from him, detailing what he had said in the White House, at campaign rallies, on social media and on TV, and then describing how she received what she called a flood of slime from his supporters. And he sat there as Carroll's lawyers displayed both his statements and the attacks on her by his supporters.

KELLY: And what exactly was her testimony?

BERNSTEIN: So this case is not about the sexual attack in a New York - a department store in the 1990s. Trump's liability for that was established in an earlier trial last May. This case is about defamation, beginning just hours after Carroll published an excerpt from an upcoming book in June of 2019.

Carroll said she expected Trump to say the sex was consensual, not that it never happened, that he didn't know her, that she was a liar, and that, quote, "people have to be careful because they are playing with very dangerous territory," which is what he did say while president.

She described how, just hours after he made his first remarks, she was alone in a hotel room in Manhattan and began to receive insults and threats that tracked Trump's language. It was a, quote, "new world" for her after that, she said.

KELLY: And Andrea, the damages that she's seeking - what specifically is she saying she should be paid damages for?

BERNSTEIN: Carroll said she lost her column, and freelance offers dried up after Trump's attacks, that her credibility as a journalist and advice columnist had been irreparably harmed, that after receiving a barrage of threats calling her ugly and a hag, there were days she couldn't get out of bed. Many days, she feared for her life.

After Carroll described the initial threats after Trump's remarks in 2019, her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, asked when the threats stopped, and Carroll said, they've never stopped. Each Trump - time Trump made a statement, she said, she's received threats, many of which I can't say on the radio. She was called an ugly hag and told she deserved to be raped and murdered. She testified Trump has attacked her as recently as this past weekend.

Trump said it was, quote, "a totally fabricated story." Even yesterday, Trump called Carroll a liar in a social media post. Even today, in the courtroom, he attacked her credibility.

KELLY: What exactly happened in the courtroom, then?

BERNSTEIN: So at one point, the plaintiff played a video clip of Trump speaking on CNN last May. That was in that town hall right after the verdict in the first trial. Trump said in the video, quote, "I swear on my children - and I never say that - it never happened. This woman is a whack job." And while they were playing the video, I could hear Trump, who was maybe 10 feet away from me and also about that far from the jury, saying, that's true.

KELLY: Andrea, what did the judge have to say about that?

BERNSTEIN: There were several objections by Carroll's lawyers to Trump's running audible commentary on her testimony. Just before lunch, attorney Shawn Crowley said she could hear Trump saying, it is a witch hunt. It really is a con job. It's true. The judge, Lewis Kaplan, turned to Trump's lawyer and said, Mr. Trump has a right to be here. That right can be forfeited if he is disruptive. Then the judge spoke directly to Trump and said, I don't want to have to consider excusing you from the trial. At which point, Trump said, I would love that - twice. The judge said to Trump, I know you would. You just can't help yourself. Trump said, you can't either. And then it was lunch.

KELLY: It sounds like just another wild day in the courtroom. How are Trump's lawyers handling all this?

BERNSTEIN: In cross-examination, Trump attorney Alina Habba suggested Carroll was getting as many accolades as she was negative responses, that she enjoyed the publicity her book got her. Their goal is to mitigate damages.

KELLY: And, just quickly, what's next?

BERNSTEIN: Just after court, Carroll said, Trump once again said that the story was made up - that Carroll's story was made up. He won't be in court tomorrow but will be back Monday, most likely, and there will be cross-examination of Carroll and other witnesses tomorrow.

KELLY: NPR's Andrea Bernstein outside the courtroom for us there in New York - thanks.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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