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Donald Trump in court for second defamation trial

Fresh off a campaign victory in Iowa, Donald Trump sat in a New York courtroom to defend himself for a second time against charges that he defamed writer E Jean Carroll after she accused him of raping her decades ago.

Mr Trump watched from the defendant’s table as a nine-person jury was chosen for a civil case that will put allegations of misconduct back in the headlines while he pursues the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Opening arguments are expected later.

Mr Trump sat two tables behind Ms Carroll, who is accusing him of defaming her in 2019 by denying he had attacked her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan.

Ms Carroll, 80, is seeking at least $10 million (€9.1m) in damages.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan told prospective jurors they would only have to consider how much Mr Trump should pay Ms Carroll in damages, not whether the alleged assault took place or whether he lied about it afterward.

He said the trial is expected to last three to five days.

Mr Trump, 77, has said he wants to testify at the civil trial.

Author E Jean Carroll arrives at federal court in New York for her defamation trial against Donald Trump

He could spend much of this year shuttling between campaign rallies and courtrooms, as he seeks to win the Republican presidential nomination for 2024.

He won the first state contest in Iowa yesterday by a wide margin, and opinion polls show him leading in the next contest in New Hampshire a week from today.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty in four criminal cases that could potentially land him in prison before the November presidential election, including two that accuse him of trying to overturn his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

He also is a defendant in at least two other civil cases.

Mr Trump has cast himself as the victim of political persecution. He said Kaplan should dismiss the case.

“Judge Kaplan should put this whole corrupt, Crooked Joe Biden-directed Election Interference attack on me immediately to rest,” he posted on social media. “He should do it for America.”

Second trial

Mr Trump’s high profile was apparent as prospective jurors were screened for the case.

Many acknowledged they were familiar with the former US president’s various legal troubles, though none said they knew the details of the first defamation trial.

Many said they had backed Democratic candidates in previous elections, reflecting the New York City area’s left-leaning tilt, and one said she had volunteered for Mr Biden’s 2020 campaign.

Two others said they believed Mr Trump’s false claims that the election had been stolen from him.

One said she used to work for his daughter Ivanka. They were not chosen for the jury.

Jurors’ identities are being kept confidential.

Mr Trump has already lost one defamation case against Carroll.

A jury last May ordered Trump to pay the former Elle magazine columnist $5 million (€4.6m) for having sexually abused her during the encounter, and defaming her in 2022 by denying that it happened. Mr Trump skipped that trial.

Judge Kaplan, who has overseen both cases, has barred Mr Trump from arguing that he did not defame or sexually assault Ms Carroll or that she made up her account.

In both cases, Mr Trump has said he did not know Ms Carroll and that she invented their encounter to sell her memoir.

Mr Trump is appealing the $5 million (€4.6m) award and could appeal any award at the second trial.

Appeals could take years.

New attacks

In recent weeks, Mr Trump has escalated his attacks on Ms Carroll, including a false accusation on social media this weekend that she did not know the decade of their encounter.

He also called Judge Kaplan “terrible, biased, irrationally angry”, echoing attacks he has made on judges overseeing some of his other cases.

Mr Trump may face an uphill fight to escape significant additional damages because of Judge Kaplan’s pre-trial rulings.

These include banning Mr Trump from suggesting he did not rape Ms Carroll, as New York’s penal law defines the term, because the first jury did not find that Mr Trump committed rape.

Judge Kaplan has ruled that because Mr Trump used his fingers in the assault, Ms Carroll’s rape claim was “substantially true”.

The judge in the trial has made a number of rulings about what Donald Trump can and cannot say in court

Mr Trump also cannot discuss DNA evidence or Ms Carroll’s sexual activities, or suggest that Democrats are bankrolling her case. Ms Carroll is a Democrat.

And as at the first trial, jurors will be able to see the 2005 ‘Access Hollywood’ video where Mr Trump graphically described the ability of famous people like himself to have sexual relations with beautiful women.

Mr Trump did not retract his comments when asked about them in a 2022 deposition.

Judge Kaplan has said the video could offer “useful insight into Mr. Trump’s state of mind” toward Ms Carroll.

On Sunday, Trump lawyer Alina Habba assured Judge Kaplan that he was “well aware” of the court’s rulings “and the strict confines placed on his testimony”.

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