Trump's lawyers say he may testify at January trial over defamation damages in sex abuse case

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NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for former President Donald Trump say he may testify at a mid-January civil trial set to decide how much he owes a columnist for defaming her after she said he sexually abused her three decades ago in a Manhattan luxury department store.

The lawyers filed papers in Manhattan federal court late Thursday to request that Trump’s October 2022 deposition transcript in the case not be shown to the jury because Trump “has been named as a witness to testify at this trial.”

The lawyers — Alina Habba and Michael Madaio — did not respond to an email Friday seeking comment.

The columnist, 80-year-old E. Jean Carroll, is planning to testify at the trial, slated to start Jan. 16, about how her life has been affected and threats she has faced since Trump claimed that he never knew her and that she was making false accusations against him.

The former Elle magazine columnist is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and substantially more in punitive damages after a jury at a Manhattan trial last May found she had been sexually abused by Trump in spring 1996 in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman store across the street from Trump Tower, where Trump resided.

Carroll testified at that trial that her flirtatious encounter with Trump seemed lighthearted and fun as she accompanied him on a search for a gift for his friend in the store's desolate lingerie area. But she said it turned violent inside the dressing room after they dared each other to try on a piece of lingerie.

She said Trump shoved her against a wall and raped her. The jury rejected the rape claim, but agreed that he sexually abused her. It awarded $5 million for sexual abuse and defamation that occurred with comments Trump made in fall 2022.

The defamation claim at stake in the January trial arose after Trump, while he was still president, angrily denounced the assertions Carroll first publicly made in a memoir published in 2019. That lawsuit has been delayed for years by appeals. Added to the lawsuit are claims that Trump defamed her again with remarks he made publicly after the first verdict.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled earlier this year that the first trial's defamation verdict means that only damages must be decided in January at a trial expected to last about a week. A new jury will be chosen for it. Kaplan has ordered the jurors be kept anonymous, in part due to “Trump's repeated public statements” about Carroll and various courts.

During the last trial before Kaplan, Trump suggested in public remarks that he might attend the trial, but he never showed up.

In recent months, though, he has testified at a civil trial in New York state court over claims that the company he created to watch over his diverse properties fraudulently manipulated the value of assets to obtain loans.

And he has appeared in court to plead not guilty to criminal charges in four indictments, two of which accuse him of seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as a classified documents case and charges that he helped arrange a payoff to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her before the 2016 presidential election.

A request to postpone the January trial while issues remain pending before an appeals court, including whether Trump is protected by absolute immunity for remarks made while he was president, was rejected Thursday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.