Trump’s Defamation Trial Scheduled to Begin as GOP Primary Caucuses Kick Off

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
June 16, 2023Donald Trump
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Trump’s Defamation Trial Scheduled to Begin as GOP Primary Caucuses Kick Off
(Left) President Donald Trump comes out of the Oval Office from the White House on Sept. 16, 2019. (Right) E. Jean Carroll (C) leaves following her trial at Manhattan Federal Court in New York on May 8, 2023. (Mandel Ngan, Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

A federal judge has scheduled E. Jean Carroll’s remaining defamation trial against former President Donald Trump for a date in January 2024 that coincides roughly with the kickoff of Republican presidential primary caucuses.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said in a Thursday scheduling order that Carroll’s civil trial against Trump will begin on January 15, 2024, unless the case has been settled by then.

“Unless this case previously has been entirely disposed of, trial of this action shall commence on January 15, 2024, absent contrary order of the Court,” Kaplan wrote.

The case relates to a lawsuit Carroll filed over allegedly defamatory comments Trump made about her in 2019 when she first publicly accused him of sexual assault.

Appellate litigation surrounding that suit caused delays, with Trump’s legal team arguing that he was shielded from liability because he was president when he made the comments.

Former President Trump Speaks At His Bedminster Golf Club After Being Arraigned On Federal Charges
Former President Donald Trump at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

$10 Million in Damages

Carroll’s attorneys recently amended the defamation lawsuit to include comments Trump made during a CNN town hall in early May, seeking higher damages. That request came after Carroll won $5 million on May 9 in her other defamation suit against the former president.

Kaplan on Tuesday approved the request to amend Carroll’s complaint, with the suit now seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages.

Thursday’s scheduling order from Kaplan relates to Carroll’s amended defamation lawsuit, with the date set for the trial falling a week before the commencement of the first Republican presidential caucus of the 2024 election cycle, which will be held in Iowa.

Like in past primary cycles, the Iowa caucus will be the first-in-nation Republican presidential primary caucus, which has often been described as the first major electoral test for contenders for the White House.

Matthew Dallek, a professor of political history at George Washington University, told PBS during the 2020 election cycle that the Iowa Republican caucuses effectively serve as “referendums on who is the most socially conservative candidate” in the Republican field.

The Iowa caucus, scheduled for Jan. 22, 2024, will be followed by the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 30, 2024.

More Damages

Carroll’s attorneys in late May asked to amend her pending defamation lawsuit, filed in November 2019, so she could seek further punitive damages against Trump.

Carroll had won $5 million on May 9 in her second defamation lawsuit—about $3 million for a defamation charge and about $2 million for a civil battery charge. The defamation charge was related to a statement Trump made on Truth Social in October 2022.

In the civil battery charge, jurors determined that Trump, now 76, had sexually abused, but did not rape, Carroll, 79.

Jury Selection Begins In Magazine Columnist E Jean Carroll S Rape Allegation Trial Against Donald Trump
Magazine Columnist E. Jean Carroll leaves after the first day of her civil trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City on April 25, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Trump appeared at a town hall event on CNN on May 10—just a day after the verdict—where he called Carroll a “whack job” and said her claims against him were fake.

Carroll, in 2019, accused Trump of having raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1995 or 1996.

Up until Carroll’s request to amend her complaint, her first lawsuit had been put on hold as an appeals court was deciding whether Trump was immune from being sued for remarks made while he was in office.

Opposition to Carroll’s Motion to Amend

In the motion to amend, lawyers for Carroll accused Trump of having “doubled down” on derogatory remarks about her.

“Trump’s defamatory statements post-verdict show the depth of his malice toward Carroll since it is hard to imagine defamatory conduct that could possibly be more motivated by hatred, ill will, or spite,” the lawyers wrote in the complaint, filed on May 22 (pdf).

“This conduct supports a very substantial punitive damages award in Carroll’s favor both to punish Trump, to deter him from engaging in further defamation, and to deter others from doing the same.”

In response, lawyers for Trump contended in a June 5 memorandum (pdf) that Carroll’s motion was “futile” since his comments made at the CNN town hall were “safeguarded by the fair reporting privilege, which consequently prevents them from being used as a foundation to enhance the punitive damages sought by [Carroll] in this case.”

The lawyers were referring to the absolute privilege under Section 74 of the New York Civil Rights Law. It states: “A civil action cannot be maintained against any person, firm or corporation, for the publication of a fair and true report of any judicial proceeding, legislative proceeding or other official proceeding, or for any heading of the report which is a fair and true headnote of the statement published.”

The lawyers said that Trump was addressing a specific question about the jury’s decision on May 9 in Carroll’s second defamation case against him.

Trump’s legal team said that he did not deny or misrepresent the jury’s verdict but expressed his disagreement with the findings and reiterated his long-held position that the alleged event never occurred.

They argued that the average listener would understand that Trump’s comments were in response to and related to Carroll’s second defamation case.

Trump faces a number of other legal proceedings—both civil and criminal—besides Carroll’s remaining lawsuit, including federal classified document charges.

Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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