[UPDATE: About 5 minutes after turning in this article, the jury returned and tagged Trump with an $83.3M in liability.]
Is Alina Habba’s goal to trigger a punitive damage award so high that it will get overturned on appeal? And if not, what would she and her client be doing differently if that was their plan?
After another exciting day that began with Judge Kaplan warning Habba that she was “on the verge of spending some time in the lockup,” the second E. Jean Carroll defamation case against Donald Trump is now with the jury.
Trump, who couldn’t even be bothered to arrive in court on time, conspicuously stomped out of the room in the middle of the plaintiff’s closing arguments, a fact which Judge Kaplan noted for the record, much to the consternation of Trump’s lawyers — both official and lay.
Meanwhile Trump’s Truth Social account pumped out a steady drumbeat of bile, seeking to slutshame Carroll for answering readers’ frank questions about sexuality in her advice column. Also, HAVE YOU HEARD HER CAT’S NAME IS VAGINA?
There was also this gem highlighting the former president’s keen grasp of civil procedure and the rules of evidence.
Here on Planet Earth, Trump himself pushed Carroll I off by appealing Judge Kaplan’s ruling that defaming a sexual assault victim was not part of his official presidential duties. Then the Second Circuit punted it to the DC Court of Appeals, which took so long to think about it that Trump had time to defame Carroll again and get himself found liable for sexual assault and defamation before the first case could go to trial. And it remains to be seen whether Trump will, in fact, “win it all.”
But through sheer repetition, Trump has managed to make the spectacle of a former president being held accountable in court seem almost mundane. Habba’s embarrassing courtroom antics are an unending source of hilarity for lawyers, of course. But the former leader of the free world being represented by someone flagrantly inappropriate is so baked in as to be a punchline at this point. A billionaire whose counsel doesn’t understand impeachment evidence? LOL!
The jurors are now tasked with determining how big a fine it will take to make Trump stop defaming Carroll, something he’s vowed to continue forever. To aid them in their deliberations, Carroll’s lawyers played the tape of the CNN Town Hall where he repeated his false claims about the plaintiff the day after the first jury verdict finding him liable for sexual assault. Naturally the all-Republican audience members roared with laughter. Carroll’s team also ran footage from Trump’s deposition in the civil fraud case where he bragged about having billions and billions of dollars. Malice and means: check and check.
Naturally Habba used her own closing to once again paint an 80-year-old rape victim as a washed-up, attention seeking, pervert.
“He will soon regret he even has a penis,” she intoned, quoting one of Carroll’s old columns, adding dramatically, “Is that a threat?”
It’s all so filthy and exhausting.
Some time on Monday, the jury will almost certainly come back with an eye-watering verdict. And before Trump’s lawyers can even bother themselves to appeal it, he’ll have raced to social media to repeat the defamation ten more times. But at least this poor woman will eventually get her money.
And on the plus side, we’ll get to watch Habba work her courtroom magic forever. Silver lining?