Skip to main content

E. Jean Carroll can ratchet up damages sought in remaining Trump suit after CNN town hall, judge rules

Carroll Trump 5-1

E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump (Photos left to right: AP Photo/John Minchillo and Emily Elconin/Getty Images)

A federal judge allowed E. Jean Carroll to seek more damages from Donald Trump following a CNN town hall, where the former president ridiculed sexual assault allegations that a jury unanimously believed.

“We look forward to moving ahead expeditiously on E. Jean Carroll’s remaining claims,” Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote in a statement.

In early May, Carroll was awarded $5 million by a jury finding that Trump sexually abused her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s — and then defamed her after she went public. That verdict, however, only resolved one of two lawsuits filed by Carroll, with a top count seeking liabilities under New York’s Adult Survivors Act.

Before that law was passed, Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit over Trump’s remarks to reporters during his presidency that the “Ask E. Jean” columnist wasn’t his “type.” He also attacked Carroll as a politically and financially motivated fabulist, a claim Trump continues to make to this day.

The day after the verdict, Trump sparred with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins at a town hall interview and doubled down on many of the comments that invited the original defamation suit. Trump called Carroll a “whack job” and described her account of the abuse as a “made-up story.” Carroll quickly moved to amend her complaint — and then ratcheted up her requested award to $10 million, twice the amount of her original verdict.

Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who isn’t related to Carroll’s attorney, gave the green light to that request with little fanfare or explanation on Tuesday. The judge said that an opinion explaining that decision “may follow.”

For now, he noted, “The amended complaint is deemed served and filed today.”

Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina declined to comment.

In the same ruling, Judge Kaplan granted the Department of Justice more time to consider whether to continue to take Trump’s side in the civil litigation. Both under Attorney Generals Bill Barr and Merrick Garland, the Justice Department previously argued that Trump had presidential immunity over his remarks to reporters under the Westfall Act. That position delayed the reckoning of Carroll’s original defamation lawsuit, inspiring extensive appeals but no resolution.

The D.C. Court of Appeals provided legal guidance, without a firm answer, and the DOJ asked for more time to study the court’s instructions and the case’s evidence before deciding how to proceed.

The Justice Department isn’t weighing in on the merits of Carroll’s case, only on the outer reaches of presidential immunity and whether that has changed since the DOJ first intervened. Legal experts note that the Biden DOJ’s backing of Trump demonstrates the agency’s tendency to defend a broad interpretation of executive power for U.S. presidents.

The Justice Department has a new deadline for that decision: July 13.

Earlier on Tuesday, the same Justice Department that supported Trump in Carroll’s case faced off against him for the first time in a federal courthouse in Miami, Florida, where the former president pleaded not guilty on 37 charges involving the alleged mishandling of classified documents.

Read the ruling here.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."