May 10, 2023

The Civil Verdict Against Trump May Strengthen His 'Witch Hunt' Narrative

The former president was found liable in a Manhattan court for battery and defamation.
The Civil Verdict Against Trump May Strengthen His 'Witch Hunt' Narrative

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By Hudson Crozier

What happened: A Manhattan jury found former President Donald Trump liable for $5 million in damages to Elizabeth Jean Carroll, a writer who accused him of raping her in a dressing room in the mid-1990s and later defaming her by calling her a liar. The jury only found Trump liable for battery and defamation, not rape.

Why it matters: Carroll’s unusual behavior, inconsistencies, and lack of evidence have prompted criticism of the verdict. In light of the politically motivated indictment of Trump by jurors in the same Democratic city and a weak investigation against him in Georgia, Trump is citing this case as further evidence of a “witch hunt” against him. This might drive more support for his 2024 presidential campaign—as his indictment already has.

Carroll’s strange case against Trump: Carroll first made public her rape allegation when she included it in her 2019 feminist book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal. She testified that she couldn’t remember the exact year of the incident but that the #MeToo movement inspired her to talk about it two decades later. She has made multiple remarks about Trump that would be unusual for a rape victim, such as when she posted, “Would you have sex with Donald Trump for $17,000?” on Facebook in 2012. She also contradicted herself in court regarding whether she has since used a dressing room at the store where the incident allegedly happened.

Her evidence: The only witnesses with any purported connection to the alleged incident were two of Carroll’s friends who described her telling them about it. The rest included former employees of the store describing how areas of the building were supervised, two women with their own separate and unproven allegations of sexual assault against Trump, and a psychologist who claimed Carroll showed signs of trauma. Carroll’s lawyer also played an unrelated recording of Trump making vulgar remarks about women.

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