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The second Trump and E. Jean Carroll defamation trial commences

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Last night, former President Donald Trump won the Iowa caucus, and today he sat in a Manhattan courtroom as a judge told potential jurors in a defamation case that Trump had already been found last summer to have sexually abused the writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s. This defamation trial could last three to five days, and Trump could end up paying Carroll more than the $5 million that he was ordered to pay her last May. NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in court today. She joins us now from a coffee shop outside the courthouse. Hey there.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So, Andrea, tell us what it was like in court today. What did you see and hear?

BERNSTEIN: So this is now the third trial I've been to where Trump or his company has been a defendant, but the first time that the president will be judged by a jury of his peers. So there was a real drama in the jury selection. There were the usual questions. Do you personally know the defendant, Donald Trump, or the plaintiff, E. Jean Carroll? But also the jurors were asked, have you been to a Trump rally? One person said yes. Do you believe that the 2020 election was stolen? A couple of prospective jurors raised their hands. Have you ever worked for the campaign of Obama, Clinton or Joe Biden? One of the prospective jurors said she'd made phone calls for Joe Biden in 2020. None of those people were selected. But President Trump - former President Trump was in the courtroom and was really craning his neck and really scrutinizing the prospective jurors who were answering the questions.

SUMMERS: And as we mentioned, Trump was previously ordered to pay Carroll $5 million. So this defamation case, what's at stake here?

BERNSTEIN: So this is the second of two trials. The first trial, where Trump was found liable, was over a statement that he made in 2022, where he called Carroll a liar. That case was also about the existence of the assault under a New York law that lasted for the year 2022, the Adult Survivors Act. This case is for an earlier incident in 2019 while Trump was president. For complex legal reasons, this one is just coming to trial. But, stay with me, because it was already established that Trump forced himself on E. Jean Carroll and that he lied about it, the only issue in this case is how much Trump will have to pay for calling her a liar, saying he didn't know her and saying, quote, "she's not my type."

SUMMERS: I understand that there were opening statements. What did the lawyers, both Carroll's and Trump's, have to say?

BERNSTEIN: Plaintiff's attorney Shawn Crowley said, quote, of Donald Trump, "he was the president. He used the world's biggest microphone to attack Ms. Carroll, to humiliate her, everything that she said was a lie." Crowley said Trump supporters sent E. Jean Carroll rape threats after he made his statements about her and death threats, and that Donald Trump had, quote, "set them in motion." And Crowley said, quote, "they should make Donald Trump to pay to make him stop," that, quote, "his lies continue to this day - literally today." And indeed, while his case was going on, he posted 22 times on social media, again calling her a liar. Trump's lawyers, meanwhile, argue that Carroll got what she wanted - more fame. Quote, "she wants a windfall because on social media, some people said some mean things about her."

SUMMERS: And, Andrea, as we mentioned, this trial could last from three to five days. So pitch us forward. What happens tomorrow?

BERNSTEIN: So tomorrow we will hear from E. Jean Carroll. She will talk about the effect, her lawyers say, of Trump's remarks on her career. The next witnesses that we'll hear from include her former editor-in-chief at Elle magazine, an expert witness on damages. And then it'll be the defense case - a friend of E. Jean Carroll's. And, most likely next Monday, former President Trump will testify in his own defense.

SUMMERS: NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Andrea Bernstein
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Megan Lim
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.