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Jury in the E. Jean Carroll case orders Trump to pay her $83.3 million for defamation

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The jury's in. Its decision is expensive for Donald Trump. E. Jean Carroll had sued the former president for calling her a liar after she said he had sexually assaulted her. Last September, the judge in the case found Trump liable for defaming the columnist. He left the jury to determine how much he should have to pay in damages, if any. They came back with $83.3 million. NPR's Ximena Bustillo has been following the trial. Ximena, thanks so much for being with us.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Yeah, thanks for having me.

SIMON: Help us understand what factors the jury had to consider.

BUSTILLO: The judge instructed the jury to remember that it did establish last May that Trump sexually assaulted Carroll and that he knew his statements calling her a liar when she went public were defamatory. And so they had three questions to kind of consider. One, did Carroll suffer, quote, "more than normal damages" as a result of statements Trump made in 2019? And if so, how much should she receive in compensatory damages? The answer from the jury was yes, and they awarded her $18.3 million.

Questions two and three to the jury were whether Trump acted, quote, "maliciously, out of hatred, ill-will or spite" or, what they said, in "willful disregard of Ms. Carroll's rights" when he made those statements in June 21 and 22, specifically, of 2019, while he was at the White House. And if so, how much should she be paid in punitive damages? The jury, once again, said yes in answer to all the above. And the answer on the money was $65 million. They only really deliberated for a few hours.

SIMON: Ximena, you were in the courthouse for part of the trial. What was that like?

BUSTILLO: Well, we heard from a lot of witnesses, including both Carroll and Trump themselves - Trump, who spoke very briefly. Carroll's testimony detailed, in large part, the immediate aftermath of Trump's comments from the White House. This is when Trump called Carroll's accusations lies and when she said that she is, quote, "not his type." Now, Carroll testified that after those comments were made, her reputation as a trusted advice columnist and face in the media was affected. She received threats and harassing messages using similar language - that she's a liar out to get Trump and unattractive.

Trump's lawyers, on the other hand, argued that Trump was not the cause of the hatred and blowback, and instead, Carroll also received a lot of support and fame because of his comments and because of what she came out with. Trump, in his own testimony, was brief and insisted that his previous recorded statement about the allegations were true and that he did not intend to harm her. When asked by Alina Habba, who is his lawyer, if he ever instructed anyone to hurt Carroll, Trump said, quote, "I just wanted to defend myself, my family and, frankly, the presidency."

SIMON: Donald Trump is facing a lot of legal challenges. What could come next in this case and the passel of others he has?

BUSTILLO: Trump's lawyer, Habba, said that they would appeal the verdict, which was expected. Following the decision, the Trump 2024 campaign also issued a statement arguing without evidence that the trial is a political weapon against him, and he disagrees with the verdict. The case is one of several involving Trump, who is also awaiting a verdict in a civil trial that could result in him paying at least $250 million to New York state for business practices which have been deemed by a judge to be fraudulent. He could also be prohibited from doing business in the state where he built his business empire and brand. And that verdict could also come before the month's end.

In all, Trump faces 91 charges in federal and state courts, ranging from ones in New York that we have just discussed to those at the federal level related to the January 6 Capitol riot. All of this, he's - still while he's running for president and is the leading Republican in the field. So interesting few months ahead for us.

SIMON: NPR's Ximena Bustillo, thanks so much for being with us.

BUSTILLO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHILIP GLASS' "ETUDE NO. 9") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.