Trump may testify as his Carroll trial defense begins

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NEW YORK — Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll rested her case Thursday in her defamation trial against former President Trump. As the former president’s defense begins, he’s in the courtroom to witness it firsthand and potentially testify.

After Carroll briefly called a final witness in the morning, Trump’s team first called to the stand one of the columnist’s longtime friends, who says Carroll confided in her in the mid-1990s that Trump had sexually assaulted her.

Trump, wearing a suit and blue tie, appeared rather subdued in court as he listened to the friend testify, a shift from when his audible comments last week led the judge to threaten to kick him out of the courtroom.

The former president yawned at times and whispered to his attorneys. As the jury watched one of Trump’s depositions, Trump could be heard saying “that’s true” as footage played of him denying Carroll’s story.

Trump has not yet taken the stand, but he is listed as a potential witness and his lawyers continued to suggest on Thursday that he does plan to testify. That testimony could occur after a lunch break.

Carroll is seeking at least $10 million in defamation damages over Trump denying he sexually assaulted Carroll at a luxury department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.

She previously won a verdict finding Trump liable for sexual abuse, and the judge has ruled it makes Trump automatically liable in the case now at trial. The jury is merely weighing Carroll’s damages request.

Also in the courtroom Thursday is Susan Necheles, one of Trump’s lawyers in his hush money criminal case, another signal Trump is likely to take the stand.

The jury first heard from Carol Martin, who worked at New York’s CBS station and is a longtime friend of Carroll. Martin says Carroll confided in her at the time that Trump sexually assaulted her.

Martin, who testified at Carroll’s previous trial, was called as a witness in Trump’s defense.

Trump attorney Alina Habba sought to highlight various messages Martin had sent over the past few years insinuating suspicions of Carroll’s motives for pursuing her lawsuits. Martin acknowledged sending messages suggesting that Carroll’s narcissism had “run amok.”

Martin said she is “a little hyperbolic” and repeatedly insisted that the various messages were merely poor word choices. But she did concede becoming frustrated at times that Carroll was hosting or attending parties to celebrate various milestones in the litigation.

When asked by Habba if she believed that Carroll is enjoying “her fame,” Martin responded that she was adapting to the new change.

“’Enjoying’ is a multifaceted word,” Martin said.

Martin went on to indicate that she was afraid for her safety at points, given her involvement in a lawsuit against Trump.

“I am a huge consumer of news … the climate in the country felt dangerous to me,” Martin said.

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