Did Trump just defame E. Jean Carroll again?

When a jury last year found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll, Trump responded at a CNN town hall by going right on attacking Carroll — in much the same terms.

So when it came time earlier this year for another jury to decide what Trump owes Carroll in a separate defamation lawsuit, Carroll’s attorneys pleaded with jurors: Make sure it’s enough to “make him stop.”

The second jury soon awarded Carroll $83.3 million. But it apparently wasn’t enough to make Trump stop.

And experts say Trump is now risking another major civil judgment against him.

Trump has responded to securing a $91 million bond in the second case by re-upping his attacks on Carroll. And now Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan is suggesting there could be a third lawsuit.

“The statute of limitations for defamation in most jurisdictions is between one and three years,” Kaplan said in a statement to The Washington Post. “As we said after the last jury verdict, we continue to monitor every statement that Donald Trump makes about our client, E. Jean Carroll.”

Trump’s latest comments — much like those in the May 2023 CNN town hall — bear lots of similarities to the ones for which he was originally found liable.

“I just posted a $91 million bond — $91 million on a fake story, totally made-up story,” Trump said Saturday at a rally in Rome, Ga. He added: “Ninety-one million based on false accusations made about me by a woman that I knew nothing about, didn’t know, never heard of. I know nothing about her.”

Trump doubled down Monday morning on CNBC:

If I didn’t win on appeal on these ridiculous decisions … including the Miss Bergdorf Goodman, a person I never — I never m — I have no idea who she is. Except one thing: I got sued. From that point on I said, ‘Wow, that’s crazy, what this is.’ I got charged. I was given a false accusation and had to post a $91 million bond on a false accusation.

Trump is nothing if not a master of repetition. But when it comes to defamatory comments, that’s not really a good thing.

Trump’s line about “Miss Bergdorf Goodman” — a reference to the department store where, the first jury found, Trump had sexually abused Carroll — mirrors his October 2022 defamatory statement.

Trump’s line about “false accusation[s]” appeared in multiple comments deemed to be defamatory, including on June 21 and 22, 2019. In his 2022 statement, he called Carroll’s claims a “con job” and “a Hoax and a lie.”

Trump’s line about not knowing Carroll also echoes each of the above comments.

Trump also seemed to nearly say Monday that he had “never met” Carroll, which he also said in June 2019. (There is photographic evidence of the two appearing together.)

That Trump’s comments have been so similar to one another was cited by the judge in the cases, Lewis Kaplan, in finding Trump liable the second time.

“In that [October 2022] statement, like his 2019 statements, Mr. Trump denied Ms. Carroll’s accusation, stated that he did not know her, and claimed that she had fabricated her accusations for ulterior and improper purposes,” wrote Kaplan, who is not related to Roberta Kaplan.

(Trump was actually held liable for the 2022 comments before the 2019 ones, given a legal dispute over whether Carroll could sue Trump for comments he made as a sitting president.)

About the only key elements that Trump didn’t repeat in recent days were that Carroll might have had ulterior motives — such as selling a book — and that she is “not my type,” which he said in 2019 and 2022.

A defamation case generally involves showing not only that a comment was false but that it was offered with “actual malice” — i.e., knowing it was false or demonstrating a reckless disregard for the truth — and that the plaintiff was injured as a result of the comments.

The first hurdle would seem easily cleared by Trump repeating such comments even after being found liable. The second would depend upon whether Carroll can show that the latest comments damaged her in some way.

Defamation experts said Carroll would have a strong case.

“I don’t think this is a close call: Carroll could sue again on either or both claims, and should easily win again,” Don Herzog of the University of Michigan Law School said in an emailed response to questions. “He doesn’t have to use the words ‘she is lying’ to be calling her a liar; it’s (more than) enough that he describes her accusation as false.”

Defamation lawyer Tre Lovell added that Trump continuing to say these things could push the punitive damages even higher — possibly into the hundreds of millions. The $83.3 million verdict came after the earlier verdict, which was for $5 million, only part of which was for defamation.

“The fact he continues to make the statements demonstrates the previous verdict was not enough to dissuade him from future defamation,” Lovell said, adding: “Trump’s lawyers will argue that she has already been compensated for any emotional distress or general damages, or that since this is all old news it won’t add any new damages to her. However, this doesn’t affect the punitive-damages aspect, which can be extremely significant.”

Trump’s continued attacks on Carroll are particularly perplexing given the cash crunch that he apparently faces. In addition to posting the $91 million bond, he faces coming up with $400-plus million in the financial fraud case in which he was also found liable. His attorneys recently attempted to reduce the amount of his bond in that case, while suggesting it would be too difficult to come up with the funds.

Against that backdrop, repeating a version of comments already deemed to be defamatory would not seem like a great idea.

But Trump has also made clear he’s not exactly swayed by the advice of lawyers — or the legal system.

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