Judge chides Trump for calling rape trial ‘made up SCAM’ on social media
NEW YORK — The federal judge overseeing the civil trial in which Donald Trump is accused of rape admonished the former president for a social media post in which he called the lawsuit “a made up SCAM.”
Trump could be “tampering with a new source of potential liability,” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan told one of Trump’s lawyers in court on Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed by E. Jean Carroll, a magazine columnist who alleges Trump sexually assaulted her in a dressing room of luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. She is suing him for rape and defamation in a trial that began Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. Trump has denied her account, saying the incident “never happened” and calling her claim a “hoax.”
On Wednesday morning, Trump posted on his social media site, Truth Social, about the lawsuit. He called Carroll’s lawyer a “political operative” and said her legal defense is “financed by a big political donor that they said didn’t exist.” He attacked Carroll directly, calling her “Ms. Bergdorf Goodman” and saying she was “like a different person” during a CNN interview.
“This is a fraudulent & false story–Witch Hunt!” he wrote.
Trump also alluded to a dress that Carroll says she was wearing on the day of the alleged rape. After filing her lawsuit, Carroll’s lawyers sought a DNA sample from Trump so they could compare it with DNA found on the dress. Trump initially refused but later changed tactics, offering to provide a sample if Carroll’s legal team turned over the full DNA report on the dress. Kaplan rejected that proposal earlier this year.
Before the jury entered the courtroom on Wednesday, a lawyer for Carroll notified Kaplan of Trump’s comments. In response, Kaplan warned Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina that Trump’s statement was “entirely inappropriate.”
“What seems to be the case is that your client is basically endeavoring, certainly, to speak to his quote unquote public, but more troublesome, to the jury in this case,” Kaplan said.
Before the trial began, Kaplan barred both sides from “any testimony, argument, commentary or reference concerning DNA evidence.”
“Here’s all I can tell you: I will speak to my client and ask him to refrain from any further posts regarding this case,” Tacopina told the judge. Seemingly acknowledging the difficulty of restraining the former president, Tacopina added: “I will do the best I can do, your honor. That’s all I can say.”
Trump, who isn’t required to attend the trial, hasn’t appeared in the courtroom.
The judge then warned Tacopina that Trump could expose himself to greater culpability if he continued to make statements related to the case.
“We’re getting into an area, conceivably, where your client may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability,” Kaplan said, adding: “and I think you know what I mean.”
Later in the day, Carroll’s lawyer again raised the issue of social media commentary, noting that Trump had made a second remark on his site and that his son Eric Trump had posted a comment on Twitter regarding the fact that Carroll’s lawsuit is partially funded by LinkedIn co-founder and Democratic donor Reid Hoffman. That tweet appears to have since been deleted.
Moments earlier, the judge had ruled that the issue of Hoffman’s financing can’t be used as evidence at trial, although that timing appeared coincidental.
In response to Carroll’s lawyer’s concerns, the judge reminded Tacopina: “I said something this morning about your client perhaps now sailing in harm’s way, conceivably with his son, if what I just heard is true.” The judge again urged him to rein in his client.
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