"That jury's a joke": GOP Trump defenders say sexual abuse verdict is "not a disqualifier"

Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville said the verdict make him "want to vote for him twice"

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published May 10, 2023 12:21PM (EDT)

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 28, 2020. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 28, 2020. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Republican legislators are flocking to the defense of former President Donald Trump following the verdict in E. Jean Carroll's sexual battery and defamation lawsuit on Tuesday.

The Manhattan jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse in the 1996 attack and determined that he had defamed the advice columnist in calling her allegations a "con job." The court awarded Carroll a total of $5 million in damages.

In the aftermath of the decision, Senate Republicans expressed their support for the GOP 2024 frontrunner, some of them even calling into question the credibility of the jury according to HuffPost.

"That jury's a joke. The whole case is a joke," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., reportedly said on Tuesday. "If someone accuses me of raping them and I didn't do it, and you're innocent, of course you're going to say something about it … it was a joke," he added, regarding the defamation findings.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., told Huff Post that the verdict makes him "want to vote for [Trump] twice."

"They're going to do anything they can to keep him from winning. It ain't gonna work ... people are gonna see through the lines; a New York jury, he had no chance," he continued.

Another ally of Trump, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., echoed Trump's denial of wrongdoing.

"I don't know the facts. It's a New York jury, too," he said when asked if he could support someone found liable for sexual battery.

Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan pointed out on Wednesday that only two of the jurors were from the city while the other seven were from suburbs.

Some Republicans hesitated to defend Trump but stopped short of retracting their support of him in the 2024 general election. 

"You never like to hear a former president has been found in civil court guilty of those types of actions," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said, adding that he "would have a difficult time" supporting someone else in Trump's position. 

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told reporters he would "rather have a president that isn't found liable for battery," but didn't rule the former President out. "It's not a disqualifier, but it's certainly not a check in the plus column," he said.

Former Vice President Mike Pence similarly did not express if the court's decision impacted his view of Trump, The Washington Post reported, saying in an interview with NBC News that it's "a question for the American people."

"I would tell you, in my four-and-a-half years serving alongside the president, I never heard or witnessed behavior of that nature," said Pence, who has moved toward entering the presidential race.

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Several Republican longshot presidential candidates have come to bat for Trump following the verdict, The Daily Beast reports, including entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who claimed the decision was just another attack on Trump.

"This seems like just another part of the establishment's anaphylactic response against its chief political allergen: Donald Trump," he said.

Right-wing talk radio host Larry Elder, another prospective candidate, dismissed the court's decision on Twitter Tuesday, deflecting attention to sexual assault allegations against President Joe Biden. 

"Was Tara Reade available for comment?" Elder wrote in reference to the former staffer in then-Senator Biden's office.

In 2020 Reade claimed that Biden sexually assaulted her in a Capitol Hill office building in 1993. At the time the allegations went public, The Associated Press reportedly refused to publish a story on it after allegedly discovering inconsistencies in Reade's story.

Some Republicans, however, did criticize Trump's actions and legitimacy as a presidential candidate to varying degrees.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is also running for president, said that the jury's verdict is "another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump." 

"I have seen firsthand how a cavalier and arrogant contempt for the rule of law can backfire," Hutchinson, the state's former attorney general, said of his more than 25 years of experience in court.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a prominent Trump critic, was also one of the few to call Trump's candidacy into question and the only one to call for the GOP to turn away from Trump.

"The jury reached their decision and I hope the jury of the American people reach the same conclusion: we need a different nominee to be the nominee for president," he said. "He is in no position to be the president of the United States."

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump Kevin Cramer Marco Rubio Mike Pence Mitt Romney Politics Rick Scott Tommy Tuberville