What the Verdict in the Trump Defamation Case Means for the 2024 Election

On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation – though not rape – in a civil lawsuit brought by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. A Manhattan jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll a total of $5 million in damages for sexually abusing her in the 1990s and then defaming her.

The case stems back to an incident that Carroll, now 79, said happened in 1995 or 1996 at Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store in New York City. She claimed Trump followed her into a fitting room, raped her, and then defamed her when she came forward with her story. The case was brought in civil court because the statute of limitations for rape had expired.

The GOP presidential candidate never appeared at the trial that began on April 25, and it took the jury of six men and three women less than three hours to return the verdict. On his Truth Social platform, Trump called the verdict a “disgrace” and reiterated his stance that he does not know Carroll. Trump’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, told reporters outside the courthouse that there will be an appeal.

On Wednesday’s show, Megyn was joined by criminal defense attorneys Jonna Spilbor and David Wohl to discuss the verdict, whether Trump will ever have to pay the $5 million in damages, and what it means for the 2024 election.

The Case Against Trump

The jury awarded Carroll $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, but Trump will not have to pay so long as the case is on appeal. Wohl believes the writer will never “collect a penny of this ridiculous award” and took issue with the verdict. “This jury said that Ms. Carroll was lying about being raped by President Trump, but – on the other hand – because president Trump said she was lying about him raping her, he defamed her,” Wohl noted. “How does that work exactly?” 

But that’s not all. “For good measure, they decided… [to] concoct a verdict of sexual battery because they’ve got to find some way to damage him for 2024,” he continued. “None of this is going to hold up in a court repeal.” If the appeal is not resolved in the lower courts, Wohl believes it will end up with the Supreme Court. 

The case was – in many ways – stacked against the former president from the beginning. For starters, 87 percent of the Manhattan electorate voted for President Joe Biden in 2020. “This is what you get when you have a jury pool [where] 80 percent hates Trump,” Wohl said. 

And then there was the evidence that was permitted. “The fact that they let in the Access Hollywood tape; the fact that they let in all these other women who said ‘me too,’ which New York is doing more and more – they did in the Harvey Weinstein case,” Megyn explained. “It just makes it impossible for a defendant to win these cases.”

Additionally, the age of the incident hinders the defense. “How are you going to defend somebody as a criminal defense attorney or as a civil defense attorney with a 30-year-old charge,” Megyn asked. “How is a man supposed to defend something like that?”

The Impact on the 2024 Election

Even with the appeal, the verdict ensures that this case will figure prominently into the 2024 election. “It’s going to be put into the questions that he gets asked at the primary level debates and, if he becomes the nominee, at the general election debates as well,” Megyn said. “It is going to haunt him.”

Because of that, Spilbor says it really doesn’t matter whether Trump is ever forced to pay Carroll out or not. “It’s perfect now because this will follow Donald Trump well into the 2024 campaign,” she explained. “He won’t ever pay a dime, and, if he does, it’ll be well after he’s re-elected or somebody else is in office. It just won’t matter.”

The Hypocritical Media Coverage

Carroll has been on a victory tour of sorts with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan. On Good Morning America, Carroll told George Stephanopoulos that she feels “fantastic” and Tuesday was the “happiest” day of her life. “It was this five-foot-three wily female attorney and this elderly 79-year-old advice columnist who are finally holding Donald Trump liable,” she added.

When speaking with Savannah Guthrie at the Today Show, Kaplan was confident her client would receive her money. “I promise you that we will collect those damages,” she said. Carroll, meanwhile, revealed what she said to Trump’s attorney in the wake of the verdict. “I said it to Joe Tacopina yesterday – he came over to congratulate me, and he put out his hand, and I said, ‘He did it, and you know it,’” she recalled.

Megyn was not swayed by the media tour and was even less impressed with the media’s coverage of the rape allegation and trial. Carroll have two contemporaneous witnesses who she told the story to at the time. This corroboration was considered a slam dunk for Carroll, but – as Megyn pointed out – others have not received such buy-in.

Take, for instance, President Biden’s accuser Tara Reade. “It’s amazing how the left totally credits those two witnesses in [Carroll’s] case, but when Tara Reade… said she had a witness who came forward… and there was a second witness… they totally dismissed her,” Megyn noted. “That’s where the politics may come in.”

You can check out Megyn’s full Kelly’s Court with Spilbor and Wohl by tuning in to episode 547 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.