Carroll takes action over Trump CNN attack — experts say "verdict could be greater than $5 million"

“That sort of flagrant abuse could support a substantial punitive damages award,” former U.S. attorney says

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published May 23, 2023 11:08AM (EDT)

E. Jean Carroll (C) leaves following her trial at Manhattan Federal Court on May 8, 2023 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
E. Jean Carroll (C) leaves following her trial at Manhattan Federal Court on May 8, 2023 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

E. Jean Carroll, a longtime columnist who was awarded $5 million in damages after a jury found Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation earlier this month, is taking aim at the former president once more. 

Carroll in a Monday filing in Manhattan federal court asked for a "very substantial" additional amount of money from Trump over comments he made during an appearance on CNN only a day after being found liable. The New York Times reported that the filing is part of a separate defamation lawsuit that Carroll filed against Trump in 2019 — Carroll alleged that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the late 1990s, subsequently slandering her name by denying the event when she went public. 

During his May 10 CNN town hall, Trump doubled down on his long-standing rejection of Carroll's claims, arguing they were "fake" and "made up." The ex-president denied having ever met Carroll — despite a photograph of the two together — and called her a "wack job," while referring to the trial as "a rigged deal."

Carroll responded to Trump's CNN sit-down in an interview with Times, saying, "It's just stupid; it's just disgusting, vile, foul; it wounds people."

The writer's most recent filing asserts that Trump's remarks "show the depth of his malice toward Carroll, since it is hard to imagine defamatory conduct that could possibly be more motivated by hatred, ill will or spite."

"This conduct supports a very substantial punitive damages award in Carroll's favor both to punish Trump, to deter him from engaging in further defamation, and to deter others from doing the same," the filing says.

Roberta Kaplan, Caroll's attorney, told the Times on Monday that Trump's statements make "a mockery of the jury verdict and our justice system if he can just keep on repeating the same defamatory statements over and over again."

Trump's legal team has argued that no damages were valid in Carroll's 2019 suit because he was president at the time. Alina Habba, one of Trump's lawyers, called the Monday filing "a desperate, last-ditch effort by Ms. Carroll to upend this case." 

Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman called Trump's repeated defamatory comments "gratuitous," arguing that he "opened the door for her to amend her other defamation action," which should get around any argument that Trump was acting within "his scope of employment."

Former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance tweeted that Carroll's new claims "could cost Trump even more money than the $5 million he already owes Carroll."

"That's because a jury could decide Trump's conduct is outrageous—he defamed her again just one day after the first jury rendered its verdict against him," she explained. 

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

"That sort of flagrant abuse could support a substantial punitive damages award," she wrote. "Punitive damages punish a defendant who has acted maliciously & discourage others from doing the same. A jury could award Carroll damages in an amount that exceeds what she got in the first case."

"It would be easier and safer for Carroll to take her earlier win and remove herself from the public spotlight," Vance added. "But she is not a woman to take the easy way out. Bullies don't go away until someone stands up to them, and sometimes that means standing up to them again and again."

Speaking with MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Monday, former Trump ally and attorney George Conway stated that he feels Carroll's 2019 defamation suit "had more damage potential than the case that she already won ... because he was president at the time."

"It was the very, very first libel that he made on E. Jean Carroll. And now the fact that he has repeated the libel after being found to have sexually abused her is really, really outrageous," Conway said. "And it is supportive of punitive damages. This verdict could be greater than the $5 million that she got in the first place. Frankly, I hope it is, because I think, at some point, he's got to stop lying about this and stop lying about her. How many times we're gonna have to go through this?"

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

MORE FROM Gabriella Ferrigine

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

Aggregate Donald Trump E Jean Carroll Politics