[There is a description of rape in paragraph 8.]
This afternoon a jury of nine Americans deliberated for less than three hours before it ordered former president Trump to pay writer E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million for defaming her after she accused him in 2019 of raping her in the 1990s. In May 2023 a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll in an assault the judge said is commonly known as rape, and for defaming her. That jury awarded Carroll $5 million.
Despite the jury's 2023 verdict, Trump has continued to attack Carroll. Indeed, he repeatedly attacked her on social media posts even during this month's trial. Today's jury found that Trump acted with malice and awarded Carroll $65 million in punitive damages, $11 million in compensatory damages for a reputation repair program, and $7.3 million in compensatory damages outside of the reputation program.
Trump immediately called the jury verdict "Absolutely ridiculous!" and said he would appeal.
Conservative lawyer George Conway responded. "Not so. The United States of America is about the rule of law, something you couldn't care less about. Today nine ordinary citizens upheld the rules of law. You have no right to maliciously defame anyone, let alone a woman you raped. In America, we call this justice."
In June 2023 the court required Trump to move $5.5 million to a bank account controlled by the court to cover the jury's judgment while he appeals it. For this larger verdict, Trump could do the same thing: pay $83.3 million to the court to hold while he appeals, or try to get a bond, which would require a deposit and collateral and would also incur fees and interest. Any bank willing to lend him that money would likely take into consideration that he has other major financial vulnerabilities and charge him accordingly.
This was not, actually, the case that looked like it would incur staggering costs. More threatening is the other case currently underway in Manhattan, where New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron is considering appropriate penalties for the frauds that Trump, the Trump Organization, the two older Trump sons, and two employees committed in their business dealings. New York attorney general Letitia James, who brought the case, has asked Engoron to impose a $370 million penalty, as well as a prohibition on the Trump Organization from doing business in New York.
Judge Engoron has said he hopes to have a decision by the end of the month.
Former president Trump is under pressure on a number of fronts. As legal analyst Joyce White Vance pointed out tonight in Civil Discourse, two separate juries have now found that Trump acted with malice, and it is becoming harder for him to argue that so many people—two entirely different juries, prosecutors, and so on—are unfairly targeting him. Vance speculates that this latest judgment might hurt his political support. "How do you explain to your kids that you're going to give your vote in the presidential race to a man who forced his fingers into a woman's vagina and then lied about it and about her, and exposed her to public ridicule and harm?" she asked.
On the political front, much to his apparent frustration, Trump has not been able to bully former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley out of the race for the Republican nomination, and she is needling him about his mental deterioration. The Republican National Committee has been considering simply deciding Trump is the nominee rather than letting the process play out. The Haley camp responded to that idea with a statement saying that if Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chair, "wants to be helpful she can organize a debate in South Carolina, unless she's also worried that Trump can't handle being on the stage for 90 minutes with Nikki Haley." Ouch.
Trump's congressional allies' attacks on President Biden took another hit today after a business associate of Hunter Biden said in sworn testimony yesterday that President Biden "was never involved" in any of their business dealings.
John Robinson Walker said: "In business, the opportunities we pursued together were varied, valid, well-founded, and well within the bounds of legitimate business activities. To be clear, President Biden—while in office or as a private citizen—was never involved in any of the business activities we pursued…. "Any statement to the contrary is simply false…. Hunter made sure there was always a clear boundary between any business and his father. Always. And as his partner, I always understood and respected that boundary."
Meanwhile, Trump's attempts to destroy the bipartisan border deal, in which Democrats appear to have been willing to give away more than the Republicans out of desperate determination to fund Ukraine, are being called out for cynical politics. The news is awash today with stories condemning the Republicans for caving to the demands of a man who is, at least for now, a private citizen and who is putting his own election over the interests of the American people as he tries to keep the issue of immigration alive to exploit in the 2024 campaign.
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) told his colleagues: "I didn't come here to have the president as a boss or a candidate as a boss. I came here to pass good, solid policy…. It is immoral for me to think you looked the other way because you think this is the linchpin for President Trump to win." Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) told Sahil Kapur and Frank Thorp V of NBC News, "I think it's crap…. We need to get that deal done to secure the border. If they want to keep it as a campaign issue, I think they need to resign from the damn Senate."
But while Trump is apparently telling Republicans he will "fix" the border if he gets back into the White House, Greg Sargent noted yesterday in The New Republic that when Trump was in office, "[h]e too released a lot of migrants into the interior, and he couldn't pass his immigration agenda even with unified GOP control." And, of course, he never got Mexico to pay for his wall, as he repeatedly claimed he would, while President Joe Biden, in contrast, got Mexico to invest $1.5 billion in "smart" border technology and to beef up its own border security.
The White House has refused to abandon negotiations even as Trump trashed them. In a statement today, Biden said that negotiators have been "[w]orking around the clock, through the holidays, and over weekends," to craft a bipartisan deal on the border, and he called out Republicans who are now trying to scuttle the bill.
"What's been negotiated would—if passed into law—be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we've ever had in our country," he said. "It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.
"Further, Congress needs to finally provide the funding I requested in October to secure the border. This includes an additional 1,300 border patrol agents, 375 immigration judges, 1,600 asylum officers, and over 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to help detect and stop fentanyl at our southwest border. Securing the border through these negotiations is a win for America. For everyone who is demanding tougher border control, this is the way to do it. If you're serious about the border crisis, pass a bipartisan bill and I will sign it."
Biden seems to be signaling that if the Republicans kill this measure, they will own the border issue, but he is not the only one making that argument. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, which slants toward the right, wrote: "[G]iving up on a border security bill would be a self-inflicted GOP wound. President Biden would claim, with cause, that Republicans want border chaos as an election issue rather than solving the problem. Voter anger may over time move from Mr. Biden to the GOP, and the public will have a point. Cynical is the only word that fits Republicans panning a border deal whose details aren't even known."
The Wall Street Journal editorial board went further, articulating what Republicans are signing up for if they continue to prevent funding for Ukraine. Recalling the horrific images of the April 1975 fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, to North Vietnamese forces, when desperate evacuees fought their way to helicopters, the board asked: "Do Republicans want to sponsor the 2024 equivalent of Saigon 1975?"