E. Jean Carroll’s Big Win for Women

E. Jean Carroll’s Big Win for Women

It turns out Trump couldn’t sexually abuse someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.


The first time disgraced former president Donald Trump faced genuine legal consequences for his many crimes over the years came just this March. He was charged with falsifying business records to cover up hush money he paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels, so she wouldn’t reveal their affair on the eve of the 2016 election. He wasn’t charged in connection with his treatment of the woman he mocked as “Horseface,” too unattractive to merit attention from the wealthy windbag, even though she told believable details of a brief and crude 2005 dalliance with Trump that occurred only months after his third wife, Melania, gave birth to his son Barron. The charges had to do with business fraud and campaign finance rules.

But many women, including me, found them reparative, and vindicating to Daniels, nonetheless.

On Tuesday, a nine-person civil jury found unanimously that Trump sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll in the dressing room of a department store—Fifth Avenue’s Bergdorf Goodman, by the way—more than 25 years ago, then defamed her, and it ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in damages. The jury did not find that he had “raped” Carroll, since such a charge requires evidence of vaginal penetration, and I guess the jurors couldn’t unanimously agree on whether that happened.

The courage of Daniels, in telling her tawdry story to the public, and the phenomenal bravery of Carroll, now 79, savaged on the witness stand by Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina, benefited all women with stories like theirs. In a statement Tuesday afternoon Carroll said as much: “This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.” Indeed.

Trump was his own worst enemy. Even though he did not testify, the jury got to see his video deposition, where he again defamed Carroll repeatedly, as a “sick person,” a “wack job” and a liar, and also insulted lawyer Robbie Kaplan gratuitously. Maybe most unbelievably, shown a photo of him with his late ex-wife, Ivana, along with Carroll and her then-husband John Johnson, Trump identified Carroll as his mistress turned wife turned second ex-wife, Marla Maples. Something in the video that didn’t get enough attention: Trump does not seem able to identify the woman he’s with as Ivanka. Is he losing it? He claimed the photo was blurry; it was not.

Next to mistaking the “not my type” Carroll for Maples, who was so much his type that he cheated on Ivana with her and then married her, Trump’s craziest self-incrimination came when asked about what he said on the infamous Access Hollywood tape, revealed in October 2016, which was essentially boasting of sexual assault. The short version: “If you’re a star, they let you do it.… Grab ’em by the pussy.”

Trump all but doubled down in his deposition when Kaplan asked him about the tape.

“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.” Kaplan then asked him, “And you consider yourself to be a star?” And he replied, “I think so, yeah.”

As I wrote last week: “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.” The jury seems to have agreed. The nine members remain anonymous; Judge Lewis Kaplan cited “a very strong risk that jurors will fear harassment.” We’ve yet to hear any comment from individual jurors.

Trump continued to rail against Carroll and the verdict on social media Tuesday night, calling it a “disgrace” and a “witch hunt.” Flanked by American flags in a poorly lit video, Trump raged on, promising to appeal the verdict. “We’re gonna have to fight this stuff. We cannot let our country go into this abyss.” The “abyss” of sexual abuse victims getting their day in court? And juries believing them? Sounds good to me.

Looming ahead is CNN’s town hall with Trump on Wednesday night. I’d say the verdict gives the network a good reason to cancel it, but they won’t. “Tune in! It will be ratings gold!” Trump adviser (and fellow sexual predator) Jason Miller told Politico. I wonder whether CNN could face a lawsuit for allowing Trump to continue to defame Carroll. Fox had to pay $787 million for allowing guests and anchors to lie about and defame Dominion Voting Systems just last month. Maybe we’ll find out. Meanwhile, I hope the verdict gives Carroll the peace, finally, that she deserves.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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