Reid Hoffman, the billionaire behind LinkedIn who’s now a megadonor to Democrats, has been quietly bankrolling E. Jean Carroll’s rape case against former President Donald Trump, according to court records filed Thursday.
The surprising last-minute disclosures came out in contentious correspondence between lawyers for the aggrieved journalist and the pissed off former president, who are battling over whether to delay the trial scheduled to start in two weeks.
While it’s unclear if that payment arrangement has any material impact on the case itself, the fact that it remained secret until now will surely support Trump’s unrelenting, conspiratorial complaints that ultra rich liberals have been pulling the strings on the efforts to take him down.
Hoffman is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who founded the professional social network LinkedIn. In recent years, Vox also identified him as a major Democratic donor who has made it his mission to loosen Trump’s control over the Republican Party. According to Insider, Hoffman’s distaste for Trump’s authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies has even strained his personal relationship with another Silicon Valley staple, Peter Thiel, who has conversely fashioned himself as a bankroller of right-wing causes.
Carroll, a longtime magazine columnist, claims Trump raped her in the dressing room of a luxury Manhattan department store in the 1990s. She wrote a tell-all memoir, Trump called her a liar from the White House, she sued him for defamation, and the case has been tied up in legal limbo for nearly four years. Now that New York passed a rape survivors law extending the statute of limitations on private civil lawsuits, Carroll sued again—this time seeking a trial that would potentially award her money, but more importantly brand the powerful real estate tycoon seeking a second presidential term as a rapist.
Trump lawyers Alina Habba and Joe Tacopina—who have already tried to delay the trial—are seizing on the strange nature of this 11th hour revelation to ask a federal judge to push back the trial or even open up another round of investigation before it starts.
In a letter on Thursday morning, Trump’s legal team documented how Carroll at her Oct. 14 deposition claimed that no one else was paying for her lawyers—only to have those same lawyers suddenly inform them this Monday that they indeed had a mystery backer. Trump’s lawyers say Carroll’s team wouldn’t immediately disclose who this rich donor was until several phone calls later during the week, when they reluctantly revealed that it was Hoffman and a nonprofit called American Future Republic.
“The proposition that [Carroll] has suddenly ‘recollected’ the source of her funding for this high-profile litigation—which has spanned four years, spawned two separate actions, and been before numerous state, federal, and appellate courts—is not only preposterous, it is demonstrably false. Indeed, it simply defies logic to believe that [Carroll’s] attorneys—four of whom were present at her deposition—were unaware that their own firm had ‘secured additional funding from a nonprofit organization’ to bankroll their client’s various lawsuits and ensure their bills were being paid,” they wrote on Thursday.
Habba and Tacopina wrote to the federal judge overseeing the case that Carroll “apparently perjured herself during her deposition; her counsel sat by and allowed her to do so, knowing full well that her testimony was false; and then they conspired to conceal the truth for nearly six months, only to disclose it on the eve of trial.”
Meanwhile, Carroll’s attorney immediately filed a letter of her own that downplays the significance of the news. Roberta Kaplan explained that Carroll did indeed initiate the lawsuit on her own, but that the legal team found someone to fund the lawsuit much later.
“That Carroll’s counsel was able to obtain financial support almost a year after Carroll commenced litigation against Trump has absolutely no bearing on whether Trump sexually assaulted her in Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s,” Kaplan wrote. “Funding obtained by counsel is not a proper topic for discovery, let alone a relevant issue at trial.”
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is not related to Carroll’s lawyer, responded Thursday evening by giving the Trump team some of what it requested—but not everything.
He wrote that the payment issue “has nothing directly to do with the ultimate merits of the case” but that it “might prove relevant to the question of [Carroll's] credibility” at trial. He gave her team until Sunday to turn over financial documents, and said Trump's lawyers can subject her to yet another round of questions at a one-hour deposition by next Wednesday. But he sternly maintained that he plans to proceed with the trial on April 25.
In her own letter, Carroll’s attorney conceded that Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly sought information about who was paying for the lawsuit. But Kaplan explained that she objected and “then Trump did nothing.”
“He did not press or pursue the issue,” Carroll’s lawyer said. She also called the payment arrangement “plainly irrelevant.”
Trump’s legal team is using this as an opportunity to bolster the notion that left-leaning elites keep engaging in underhanded political tactics, noting how Hoffman in 2018 apologized for funding a group that engaged in Russian-bot-like disinformation against the Republican frontrunner in an Alabama senate race.