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Trump attorney asks E. Jean Carroll why it took decades to accuse his client of rape


The writer E. Jean Carroll stuck to her story yesterday under cross-examination.


Carroll says Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the dressing room of a department store in the 1990s and then defamed her when she went public. Now she's giving testimony and faced Trump's lawyers in federal court.

INSKEEP: NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in the courthouse yesterday.

Andrea, good morning.


INSKEEP: And I guess we should note this is graphic testimony. How effective was the cross-examination of that testimony?

BERNSTEIN: Trump's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, tried to draw out flaws, that E. Jean Carroll didn't go to the police, didn't go to a doctor, didn't document the attack in her diary, couldn't remember exactly when it occurred. But Carroll, who is 79, stood by her account - after a joking encounter in a Bergdorf Goodman's, Trump, quote, "shoved me so hard my head banged" and then, quote, "jammed his fingers inside her before penetrating her with his penis." Tacopina tried to draw out inconsistencies in her behavior - why she laughed when she called her first friend, why she couldn't remember emails she sent, why she told two friends but never talked about it again. And Carroll responded she felt ashamed and afraid she wouldn't be believed and had only been motivated to come forward many years later after Harvey Weinstein's rapes were exposed in 2018 and the #MeToo movement was launched.

INSKEEP: I guess she would also have to talk about the defamation part of this case. She says Trump defamed her in far more recent years.

BERNSTEIN: Yesterday morning, she detailed some of the things Trump has said about her, calling her a liar who is in it for political reasons or to sell books. In his cross-examination, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina brought up those same issues, suggesting she was a liar and was plotting to increase book sales for money and political ends. At one point, Tacopina tried to suggest there was an inconsistency between Carroll saying she felt ashamed and saying she felt afraid because Trump was powerful, rich, famous, and as one of her friends put it, he has 200 lawyers. But Carroll pushed back, saying, quote, "I was afraid Donald Trump would retaliate, which is exactly what he did. He has two tables full of lawyers here today."

INSKEEP: How does it affect this case at all that it happens in the middle of a presidential campaign and involves a presidential candidate?

BERNSTEIN: So Trump earlier this week posted another social media attack on Carroll, as did his son Eric. And of course, that's Trump's usual MO - to bully, belittle and discredit people who criticize him or try to hold him to account. We saw that in the 2016 campaign, in the White House, in the 2020 campaign. We're seeing it now in this trial. But this isn't a political campaign. We are in a federal court with tens of millions of dollars in reputational damage potentially at stake. The judge has already admonished Trump's lawyers that he could be opening himself up to additional claims if he continues to attack Carroll.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, where's this case going days ahead?

BERNSTEIN: There will be more cross-examination. We will hear from people she confided in, from two other women who say they were assaulted in a similar manner. The jury will view the "Access Hollywood" tape where Trump boasted about grabbing women by the genitals because when you're a star, they let you do it. Videotaped testimony of Trump's deposition - case could go to a jury, possibly by the end of next week.

INSKEEP: NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Thanks so much.

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

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Andrea Bernstein
[Copyright 2024 NPR]