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New York: Donald Trump’s friendship with ex-Fox News giant Roger Ailes has been thrown into the spotlight in the rape case against him and used to portray the former president as a serial liar whose denials should not be believed.
At the end of a two-week trial that could upend Trump’s chances at the 2024 election, lawyers for writer E. Jean Carroll also told the jury that her alleged assault was consistent with his alleged “modus operandi” – to flirt with women “in a friendly way” and then force himself on them without their consent.
E. Jean Carroll (centre) leaves federal court in New York on Monday.Credit: AP
“That’s who Donald Trump is,” said lawyer Roberta Kaplan, reminding the court of Trump’s now infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which he was caught on a hot mic bragging about “grabbing women by the pussy”.
Trump has consistently denied Carroll’s allegations, which centre on claims that he raped her in Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s and then defamed her by accusing her of a “hoax” when she went public with the allegations in 2019.
However, in 75 minutes of closing arguments to the jury who will begin deliberating on Wednesday (AEST), Kaplan listed a series of “lies” Trump made during his own video deposition for the case, which she said undercut his defence.
Former Fox News head Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch in 1996.Credit: AP
Among them was a suggestion that he was not friends with Ailes in the mid-1990s, when Ailes was Carroll’s boss at the now-defunct network America’s Talking, which would eventually become the cable TV station MSNBC.
The jury was shown video evidence in which Trump appeared on Ailes’ program in 1995 and began the interview by saying: “Well how are you? It’s been a little while,” before the pair discussed being on the same flight together with Trump’s daughter, as well as a conversation they’d previously had about Ailes’ career.
“Admitting he knew Roger Ailes in the mid-1990s would be further proof that he knew E. Jean Carroll,” said Kaplan.
Ailes was chairman and chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News from 1996 and helped grow the network into America’s most influential conservative cable network. He resigned in 2016 after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against him by a former anchor.
Kaplan said the way Trump characterised their friendship was one of the many lies he had told relating to the alleged rape. Others included Trump’s claim that he did not shop at Bergdorf Goodman (employees testified that he did); that Carroll was “not my type” (even though he confused a photo of her for his second wife, Marla Maples) and that, when corrected, he claimed the photo he was looking at was “blurry” (it wasn’t).
But Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, portrayed the accusations against the former president as “amazing, odd, inconceivable, unbelievable”.
He used his closing argument to attack the credibility of the former Elle advice columnist, along with that of two women who testified that Carroll told them about the rape not long after it happened: Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin.
Like Carroll, who is now 79, both were prominent in the New York media industry in the 1990s. Tacopina argued all three conspired to make up the allegations, partly due to political reasons, as they did not like Trump as president.
The also questioned why Trump, who was a successful real estate tycoon in the 1990s, would risk everything to attack a woman in a busy department store, noting that he could have easily invited her to his apartment at the nearby Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.
“I ask you all to please, to please have the courage to do what is right here,” he told the jury.
The jury, made up of six men and three women in what is a very Democratic city, will have to decide if Trump is liable for battery and defamation. Carroll is seeking unspecified damages and a retraction by Trump, who is currently the Republican frontrunner for next year’s presidential nomination.
However, the trial is a civil case where the burden of proof is lower, and a verdict against Trump would not involve jail time.
To assess Carroll’s claim of battery (in connection with the rape) the jury will simply have to decide if it was “more probable than not” that the assault occurred. On the claim of defamation, the jury will have to decide if her claim of reputational damage is “clear and convincing” enough to warrant compensation.
Trump has not presented a defence case and his only expected witness, a psychiatrist, did not testify last week due to health reasons. He did not attend the trial, despite suggesting last week that he might cut short a trip to Ireland to do so.
“I’m going to go back, and I’m going to confront this,” he said on Friday.
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