Donald Trump’s labyrinthine legal troubles twisted anew Tuesday, when the judge in the former president’s criminal case over hush money payments to a porn star called a hearing to explain an order forbidding the disclosing of material presented by prosecutors not already publicly known.
Trump’s scheduled second court appearance in the criminal case is due to come shortly after news that E Jean Carroll – who accused him of rape and won $5m in a civil suit earlier this month – is seeking additional damages over his comments in a controversial CNN town hall.
The ex-president and current frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination was due to appear in judge Juan Merchan’s Manhattan courtroom Tuesday afternoon by video from his Florida home.
Trump claims to be the victim of political witch-hunts meant to silence him – including in Merchan’s courtroom – as he runs for the Republican nomination to face Joe Biden next year. Merchan has said he is not seeking to gag Trump but “bending over backwards and straining to ensure that he is given every opportunity possible to advance his candidacy”.
Trump pleaded not guilty in April to 34 charges of falsification of business records, arising from his $130,000 payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels, during the 2016 election, to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter.
Meanwhile, Carroll’s new demand centers around an appearance Trump made in New Hampshire. Just a day after the initial $5m verdict against him, Trump called Carroll a “wack job” who he said “made-up” claims about him. He also claimed the civil trial was “rigged”.
In a new filing in New York on Monday, lawyers for Carroll said Trump’s conduct “supports a very substantial punitive damages award in Carroll’s favor”.
Carroll, a magazine columnist, says Trump raped her at a New York department store in the mid-1990s. In court this month, Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation. Despite being ordered to pay $2m for sexual abuse and $3m for defamation, Trump used the CNN town hall to attack Carroll in crude terms the day after the verdict.
Carroll’s new damages claim comes in a defamation suit filed in federal court in 2019 and separate from the New York case, which was brought under a state law allowing victims of historic sexual crimes to sue their alleged attackers.
The federal case had been on hold over the issue of whether Trump was protected because he made the comments in question while president. He does not enjoy that protection as it relates to comments during the CNN event.
According to the New York Times, the new filing says Trump’s statements “show the depth of his malice toward Carroll, since it is hard to imagine defamatory conduct that could possibly be more motivated by hatred, ill will or spite”.
Trump renewed his abuse of Carroll on social media on Monday. As he did so, George Conway, a conservative lawyer and Trump critic, told MSNBC: “The complaint that she’s been amending this time was actually the original complaint from the first lawsuit that she brought in 2019, when … Trump … from the bully pulpit of the Oval Office, denied that anything ever happened … and basically accused her of being a liar.
“And she got $3m for the second libel, in 2022, when he was dumb enough to repeat the first libel. And that time, he wasn’t president, so he didn’t have this legal argument. That’s why the first case went off on a wild goose chase in the appellate court, and now it’s come back.”
The 2019 case, Conway said, “already had more damage potential [for Trump] than the case that [Carroll] already won … because he was president at the time.
“It was the very, very first libel that he made on E Jean Carroll. And now the fact that he has repeated the libel after being found to have sexually abused her is really, really outrageous. And it is supportive of punitive damages.
“This verdict could be greater than the $5m that she got in the first place. Frankly, I hope it is, because I think, at some point he’s got to stop lying about this and stop lying about her. How many times [are we] gonna have to go through this?”
Trump’s legal problems extend beyond New York, though he does also face a multimillion-dollar civil suit there over his business affairs, lodged by the state attorney general.
In Georgia, indictments arising from Trump’s attempt to overturn his 2020 election defeat are expected this summer.
In Washington, the US justice department continues to investigate Trump’s election subversion, including his incitement of the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.
Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by attorney general Merrick Garland, is also investigating Trump’s retention of classified documents.
Nonetheless, Trump enjoys huge leads over all other Republican presidential candidates.
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