He just can’t help himself.
Donald Trump has repeatedly, publicly, and cruelly denied raping the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room almost 30 years ago. But at times in his video deposition for Carroll’s civil suit against him charging battery and defamation, he implicitly seemed to confirm it. This is not a legal judgment—I’m not a lawyer—but a psychological one.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Carroll’s attorney, Robbie Kaplan, played parts of Trump’s deposition for the jury, including his reaction to the 2005 Access Hollywood tape, in which he famously bragged to host Billy Bush about his approach to women: “I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he told Bush. “You can do anything,” he added. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Technically, of course, Trump was confessing to sexual assault, which is defined as any sexual contact without consent. We knew it then; we know it now. So it was fascinating, if stomach-turning, to see Trump’s response when Kaplan asked him about the tape in his deposition.
“Well, historically, that’s true, with stars,” he replied.
Kaplan then asked if he stood by his “grab them by the pussy” comment.
He did. “If you look over the last million years I guess that’s been largely true, not always, but largely true, unfortunately or fortunately.”
Unfortunately or fortunately? For whom would it be fortunate? But I digress.
Kaplan asked him calmly: “And you consider yourself to be a star?”
“I think so, yeah,” Trump answered.
Let me be clear: That isn’t legal confirmation that Trump raped Carroll. But it shows that he’d rather boast about being a “star,” and the “fortunate” sexual prerogatives of stardom, than find a way to sound like less of a sexual predator.
It’s not the only time in the deposition Trump came off as a misogynist ogre. He reiterated several times his key defense: He couldn’t have raped Carroll because she wasn’t his “type.” He went out of his way to insult Kaplan the same way: “You wouldn’t be a choice of mine, either, to be honest,” he told the prominent feminist lawyer. “I wouldn’t in any circumstances have any interest in you.”
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Again, as we all know, creepy men assault even women they don’t find “attractive.” It’s about power and degradation more than lust. This is not a defense against an accusation of rape.
Even so, Kaplan had his number on that front, too. She showed him a picture of Carroll from the mid-1990s, and he mistakenly identified her as his second wife, Marla Maples. “That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife.” “I take it the three women you’ve married are all your type?” Kaplan asked him. “Yeah,” he replied.
Again: not proof that he raped Carroll, just proof that in the mid-1990s the writer was attractive enough to be his “type.” If not his second wife.
Bizarrely, he also claimed that in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Carroll said that she “loved” the rape he didn’t commit, that she found it “sexy.” In fact, Carroll told Cooper that “the word ‘rape’ carries so many sexual connotations. This was not—this was not sexual. It just hurt,” adding, “I think most people think of rape as being sexy.” Trump’s comments reminded me of O.J. Simpson’s book, If I Did It, in which Simpson put forth a “hypothetical” description of how he killed his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
If Trump raped Carroll, she would have “loved” it and found it “sexy.” What a narcissistic monster.
In terms of defending himself against Carroll’s charge of defamation, Trump didn’t do the best job there, either. He called her “a nut job,” “a wack job,” and “a sick person,” adding, “Really sick. Something is really wrong with her.”
None of this means the jury will find for Carroll. But it certainly didn’t help Trump. His rambling, offensive, grievance-filled set of replies to Kaplan’s self-composed questioning showed us the man many of us have come to despise, self-righteous but with the self-awareness of a brick.
His lead attorney, Joe Tacopina, has done no better. During his at times vicious cross-examination of Carroll, in which she was eloquent and emotional, he made the landmark mistakes of a bad litigator. At times, he asked questions he didn’t know the answer to. And rather than fashioning queries that would require a simple yes or no from the journalist, he let her repeat her story of Trump’s vicious assault in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room many times over. When the jury goes to deliberate, likely next week, they will have those details well-established in their memories.
Meanwhile, Trump claimed that he was cutting short a trip to Ireland on Thursday in order to return to testify in the trial. When reporters asked Tacopina if that were true, he replied with a terse “no.” Such a move would be a disaster for Trump. But his video deposition has been a disaster, too, so maybe he thinks it can’t get worse. He’s essentially putting on an insanity defense, so why not play it to the hilt?
Either way, we’re supposed to hear closing arguments from both attorneys early next week. I don’t know what will happen, but I’d put my money on Kaplan over Tacopina. Trump will only face financial damages if he loses the case, and it’s not certain Carroll would see any of that money, since he always finds a way to stiff people. But it would be a victory for her and for all the women who’ve accused Trump of assault if the jury holds Trump accountable.