Trump’s civil rape case: what is he accused of and what happens next?
The writer E Jean Carroll is seeking damages after accusing the former president of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s
in New York
Tue 25 Apr 2023
The rape case brought in New York against Donald Trump by the famed advice columnist E Jean Carroll has caught the attention of America as the latest legal drama to involve the former US president.
The case is so far the only one to come to court among more than a dozen allegations of rape, groping and other sexual assaults made against Trump.
What does Carroll accuse Trump of?
Carroll has filed two separate lawsuits against Trump. The first accuses him of defamation after he accused her of lying in her book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, in which she accuses Trump and other men of abusing her.
Carroll brought the second lawsuit after New York passed a law last year giving adult victims of sexual assault a window of one year to file civil actions against their assailants where the statute of limitations has expired. She is seeking damages after accusing Trump of assaulting her in a department store changing room in the mid-1990s.
The first lawsuit is on hold amid legal wrangling about whether the Trump can be sued for comments he made while president.
What was Trump’s response to the accusations?
Trump denied the allegations with his usual vigour, at various times saying that Carroll was “totally lying” and calling her a “nut job”. He also claimed that he would never have assaulted her because she was “not my type”.
Trump also claimed never to have met Carroll, even though they were photographed together with their spouses in 1987.
He said: “I’ve never met this person in my life. She is trying to sell a new book – that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.”
Why is the US justice department siding with Trump in Carroll’s defamation lawsuit?
The justice department asked to move the defamation case from state to federal court on the grounds that Trump’s public statements in 2019 denying rape were made as part of his job as president. The administration then argued that Carroll is not suing Trump as an individual but as an employee of the US government, and that therefore the government should be substituted for Trump as the defendant.
“The government thus asserts that this case is virtually identical in principle to a lawsuit against a Postal Service driver for causing a car accident while delivering the mail,” said the judge in considering the position.
The judge rejected the claim that the president is just another government worker and said that, in any case, his statements about Carroll were not within the scope of his employment.
The issue is due to be considered by the Washington DC appeals court.
What will happen if Trump loses the sexual assault case?
If the jury finds that Trump did rape or otherwise assault Carroll, it is likely to order him to pay damages. It will also mean that for the first time in US history, a jury will have found a former president is a rapist.
Political scientists say it is unlikely to do much damage to Trump’s run for the Republican presidential nomination next year because his more ardent supporters regard the various legal cases against him as a conspiracy.
But it will add to his already considerable political baggage in the general election and prove a further obstacle to re-election as president.