Trump Testimony Delayed Until Wednesday Amid Covid Scare

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(Bloomberg) -- New York writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial against Donald Trump was called off until Wednesday amid concerns over a sick juror and Covid exposure among defense lawyers, setting the stage for the former president to testify mid-week in Manhattan.

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US District Judge Lewis Kaplan initially delayed the trial for one day during a brief hearing Monday morning due to the illnesses. But later in the day the judge issued a brief order delaying the trial for a second day without giving a reason.

The delay is a win for Trump, regardless of why it was ordered. His attorney Alina Habba had requested an additional one-day delay as a result of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, had objected to the request, saying the trial should finish Tuesday no matter what.

“I would just need his testimony to be Wednesday in light of the news about the juror today,” Habba told the the judge at the hearing, referring to Trump.

The delay spares Trump from having to choose between testifying or focusing on his campaign — the latest sign of potential conflicts between the former president’s pressing legal and election schedules. Trump’s next trial, in the criminal case over his attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 election, is set to start March 4, the day before the “Super Tuesday” series of GOP primaries.

Monday was expected to be the final day of the defamation trial, with Carroll calling her last witnesses and Trump potentially taking the stand. Carroll, who last year won a separate sexual-abuse trial against Trump, is seeking at least $12 million in compensation for damage to her reputation caused by his denials, plus unspecified punitive damages that can easily soar in such cases.

The judge in the Carroll case has already held Trump liable for defamation, leaving it to the jury to set damages.

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The trial is wrapping up as Trump awaits a judge’s verdict in New York state’s $370 million civil fraud trial against him over his asset valuations, as well as upcoming trials in four criminal prosecutions. Trump denies wrongdoing in all the cases, claiming they’re part of a “witch hunt” against him.

The judge had aimed to resume the trial Tuesday based on the results of Covid tests by the juror who called in sick. But the judge was also concerned about Habba, who said at the Monday morning hearing that she and her babysitter had been exhibiting Covid symptoms after being exposed at a dinner with her parents three days earlier. She got a negative test result before the hearing.

Trump, wearing a dark blue suit and light blue tie, sat alongside Habba as she discussed her Covid symptoms. Habba said she and another Trump attorney, Michael Madaio, were exposed when they had dinner several days earlier with her parents, who tested positive. None of the former president’s lawyers were masked during the brief hearing.

It’s the third time that Covid has impacted one of Trump’s trials. In Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s criminal tax-fraud case against Trump’s company in 2022, prosecution witness Jeffrey McConney and Judge Juan Merchan both tested positive, resulting in a delay that lasted several days.

In New York state’s civil fraud trial, Habba and other Trump lawyers complained to the judge after members of New York Attorney General Letitia James’s staff tested positive and allegedly failed to inform them quickly enough or wear masks in court. None of Trump’s lawyers on any of these occasions have worn masks in court.

(Updates with judge delaying trial by one more day until Wednesday.)

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