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Trump's lawyers conclude cross examination of E. Jean Carroll in civil rape case trial

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today lawyers for Donald Trump began their cross-examination of former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. It is Day 3 of the civil trial in her lawsuit against the former president. Carroll accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store. She is also accusing Trump of defamation for calling her a liar and saying she was trying to make a profit when she went public in 2019. Well, NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in the courtroom today. She's just outside it now. Hey there, Andrea.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Good afternoon, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hi. All right, walk me through what the main lines of questioning were in court today.

BERNSTEIN: So on her direct examination, Carroll had described the alleged defamation - that, when she went public, Trump said she was a liar, a Democratic operative and in a conspiracy to sell a book and make money. And on cross-examination, Trump's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, questioned her about those same issues - when she decided to write the book, whether she'd stayed silent in order to promote book sales, whether she got the idea to write a book from political operatives. At one point, Tacopina said she was supposedly raped, and Carroll retorted, not supposedly - I was raped, adding, those are the facts.

KELLY: OK, tell me more about the cross-examination. Could you tell if she was rattled by it?

BERNSTEIN: So she was mostly composed. There were a few moments when she sounded choked up and took some long pauses. Her own lawyers laid the groundwork for a weakness in her case. She has no record or memory of the exact date. At one point, Tacopina questioned her about an email from five years ago, which she said she could not remember, and he wanted to know why she could remember the alleged assault so clearly but couldn't say the exact day or year. I wish to heaven we could give you a date, Carroll said. I wish we could give you a date.

KELLY: What about the date of when she came forward? - because this has been something people have had questions about. Did Trump's attorneys ask about that - why it took her years to come forward with these allegations?

BERNSTEIN: Yes. So there was first this lengthy discussion of the actual alleged assault in which Carroll said, I'm not a screamer, in which she added loudly, he raped me whether I screamed or not. The questions about what she did next cascaded from there - why she didn't go to the police, why she didn't go to the doctor, why she told two women at the time but never spoke of it again, why she described herself as laughing when she made one of the calls to her friends. And she said her mind was disordered. She was disoriented, and she was in pain. She added, I was afraid Donald Trump would retaliate, which is exactly what he did. He has two tables of lawyers here today.

KELLY: Yeah. For people who've been following the trial closely, they may have gotten the sense that the judge has been exasperated with Trump's legal team. And I want you to explain why and what's been happening.

BERNSTEIN: Yes. There were several points during questioning, particularly as the afternoon drew on, where the judge sustained objections to the questions that the lawyer was asking. And then at the end of testimony and out of the presence of the jury, Judge Lewis Kaplan said, the fact she didn't go to the police is as known a fact is that the Yankees haven't won the World Series in years. Everybody knows it - enough already. Then he explained a reference he had made earlier to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" - that it wasn't to be taken seriously. Tacopina responded with a reference to "My Cousin Vinny," and then court adjourned for the week. Carroll's cross-examination resumes Monday.

KELLY: All right. NPR's Andrea Bernstein right outside that Manhattan federal courtroom for us today. Thanks, Andrea.

BERNSTEIN: All right - great talking to you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Bernstein