Trump legal news brief: Trump takes the witness stand in E. Jean Carroll case that could cost him millions
Former President Donald Trump takes the witness stand in the second civil defamation trial brought against him by columnist E. Jean Carroll. U.S. District Judge Ahmit Mehta sentences Peter Navarro, a former trade adviser in Donald Trump’s administration, to a four month prison sentence for his defiance of a congressional subpoena issued by the House Jan. 6 select committee. Navarro worked with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has also been sentenced to four months in prison for defying a subpoena issued by the committee, to devise a strategy to overturn Trump’s loss in the 2020 election. Here are the latest legal developments surrounding the former president running for re-election in 2024.
E. Jean Carroll defamation
Trump briefly takes witness stand at civil defamation trial
Trump took the witness stand Thursday as the final witness for the defense in his second civil defamation trial brought by Carroll, NBC News reported.
Asked by Habba if he stood by the answers he gave during a deposition in the case that he never met or assaulted Carroll, Trump responded, “100% yes.”
Habba then asked him if he had ever instructed anyone to hurt Carroll.
“No. I just wanted to defend myself, my family and frankly the presidency,” Trump responded.
Under cross-examination, Kaplan asked Trump whether he was aware that another trial had already been decided by a jury in Carroll’s favor.
“Yes,” Trump responded.
Kaplan followed up by asking whether the second Carroll civil trial was the first he had attended.
“Yes,” Trump again replied, and Kaplan said she had no further questions.
The trial will decide the damages, if any, Trump must pay to Carroll for defaming her by denying her account of being sexually assaulted by him in a department store changing room in 1996.
In May, a jury found that Trump had sexually assaulted Carroll in 1996 and defamed her in 2022 and ordered him to pay her $5 million.
The second case concerns comments Trump made in 2019 while president in which he denied ever having met or assaulting Carroll and accused her of making up the story to “sell a new book.”
Prior to taking the stand Thursday, Kaplan sought assurances from Habba that Trump wouldn’t veer off topic.
But Trump, who was sitting at the defense table, interrupted that conversation. “I don’t know who the woman is. I never met this woman,” he said.
Kaplan then rebuked him: “I’m sorry, Mr. Trump, you’re interrupting these proceedings by talking loudly while your attorney is talking and that is not permitted.”
As Trump left the courtroom, he was heard complaining, “This is not America. Not America. This is not America.”
Closing arguments in the case will take place on Friday morning.
Why it matters: Trump is being sued by Carroll for $10 million in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount, potentially many millions more, in punitive damages. Kaplan has instructed the jury that Trump has already been found to have sexually assaulted Carroll.
Jan. 6 election interference
Peter Navarro sentenced to four months in prison for defying Congressional subpoena
On Thursday, Mehta handed Navarro a four-month prison sentence and a fine of $9,500 after he was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena issued by the House Jan. 6 select committee, the Guardian reported.
During his trial, Navarro said he believed executive privilege shielded him from having to cooperate with the committee, but he failed to produce evidence that Trump had extended that privilege to him.
“The words ‘executive privilege’ are not magical incantations,” Mehta said during the sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Navarro to six months in prison.
Bannon also received a four-month prison sentence on the same contempt of Congress charges, but his lawyers are appealing that decision.
Navarro worked with Bannon on a plan they called “the Green Bay sweep” that sought to use Republican lawmakers to contest ballots in the 2020 election in order to overturn Trump’s defeat in key swing states.
Mehta has yet to decide whether Navarro must begin serving his sentence immediately or whether it can be delayed pending an appeal by his lawyers.
Why it matters: Prison sentences for contempt of Congress are rare, but the cases against Bannon and Navarro underscore the larger legal peril facing Trump and those who helped him devise a plot to overturn the 2020 election.
Wednesday, January 24
Judge Tanya Chutkan announces that a trial she will oversee for Jan. 6 defendant Anthony Mastanduno will begin on April 2, making it clear that former President Donald Trump’s trial on election interference charges will be pushed back. Here are the latest court developments for the former White House occupant seeking reelection in 2024.
Jan. 6 election interference
Chutkan scheduling decision indicates Trump’s trial will be delayed
In a court docket filing issued Wednesday, Chutkan announced she had scheduled a trial for Mastanduno to begin on April 2, a clear indication that Trump’s trial, which was supposed to begin on March 4, would indeed be delayed.
Chutkan had already indicated that the trial would be delayed. Last week, she issued an order preventing special counsel Jack Smith from filing motions in the case without permission, Politico reported, while Trump pursues his appeals of Chutkan’s ruling that presidential immunity claims do not protect him from being prosecuted for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
The U.S. Court of Appeals is expected to rule soon on the matter, but if that decision goes against him, Trump is expected to take his appeal to the Supreme Court.
Wednesday’s announcement made it likely that the earliest Trump’s federal election interference trial could begin would be mid-April.
Mastanduno is charged with “civil disorder and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon, both felony offenses,” according to the Department of Justice.
He is one of 1,265 people who have been arrested and charged for their actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building to try to block the Electoral College certification of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020.
At least 749 defendants have been sentenced so far, with at least 467 of them receiving prison time, the DOJ said.
Why it matters: Trump has long sought to delay the trial proceedings in the many cases against him. Polls have consistently found that a criminal conviction could significantly diminish his support among voters in 2024.
Tuesday, January 23
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denies a request by former President Donald Trump to lift or revisit a gag order put in place by Judge Tanya Chutkan in the federal election interference case designed to prevent him from commenting about witnesses and courtroom staff in the case. Here are the latest legal developments for the former president hoping to be reelected to the White House in 2024.
Jan. 6 election interference
Appeals court rejects Trump request to consider lifting gag order
Key players: U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, JudgeTanya Chutkan, special counsel Jack Smith, United States Supreme Court
On Tuesday, the court denied a request by Trump’s lawyers to rehear arguments on whether to lift a gag order put in place by Chutkan aimed at preventing Trump from disparaging witnesses and courtroom staff in the federal election interference case against him, ABC News reported.
None of the 11 justices on the appeals court requested a vote on the issue of reexamining the gag order. That means that the Supreme Court is Trump’s only remaining venue to challenge the gag order.
Trump is not prevented from criticizing Smith, the appeals court ruled.
The election interference case brought by Smith is on hold until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on whether presidential immunity protects Trump from prosecution stemming from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Why it matters: As with the question of presidential immunity, the Supreme Court could now be the final lifeline for Trump in terms of his ability to defy Chutkan’s attempts to keep him from attacking those who appear in her courtroom.
E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit
COVID fears push back Trump testimony until Wednesday
Trump is expected to take the witness stand on Wednesday in the second civil defamation trial brought by Carroll after Kaplan delayed the proceedings due to the illness of a juror, USA Today reported.
On Monday, the juror was tested for COVID-19, and Habba also indicated that she had been exposed to the virus.
Habba asked Kaplan to postpone the proceedings until Wednesday so that Trump could travel to New Hampshire, which is holding its presidential primary on Tuesday.
The trial is expected to wrap up this week.
Why it matters: It remains unclear whether Trump, who continues to defame Carroll, will take the witness stand in his own defense. His persistent attacks on her character and his denial that he never sexually assaulted her even though a separate jury concluded that he did, could prove costly.