Donald Trump will not mount a defense in the writer E. Jean Carroll’s federal lawsuit against the former president in which she accuses him of both sexual assault and defamation, his lawyers confirmed Wednesday afternoon. The former president will not be appearing at all, they said, as it’s not required in civil proceedings.
But the trial carries on without him: Lisa Birnbach testified on Tuesday about the “breathless, hyperventilating, emotional” phone call from her friend E. Jean Carroll in the minutes after Carroll and Trump emerged from a dressing room in Bergdorf Goodman in the mid ‘90s. Birnbach’s testimony was the latest in nearly a week of testimony in the case.
“‘He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights.’ Like she couldn’t believe it. She was still processing what happened to her. It had just happened to her,” Birnbach said on the stand, according to CNN. (Federal court largely does not allow video or audio recording in court with the exception of the Supreme Court which only recently started broadcasting live oral arguments, so journalists not present in the room must rely on those who were.)
“E. Jean he raped you. You should go to the police,” Birnbach said she told Carroll on that phone call after the incident.
Carroll would not go to the police and would not even tell more than a few friends until her memoir, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, was published in 2019. Carroll filed the lawsuit last November, after New York state enacted the Adult Survivors Act, a law opening a one-year lookback period for abuse survivors to sue their abusers, even if the statute of limitations had passed for criminal charges. The celebrated writer is alleging the Trump raped her in that dressing room and later defamed her when he suggested that the incident was made up to boost her memoir sales.
Carroll would not process the word “rape,” Birnbach said. “It sounded like a physical fight she tried to get free from him and she did not want me to say that word,” she testified.
A clinical psychologist who took the stand on Wednesday said Carroll met some of the criteria for post-traumatic stress, including “re-experiencing” the assault during Dr. Leslie Lebowitz’s evaluation of Carroll.
Carroll and Birnbach would never talk about the alleged attack and the following phone call until 2019. “I had made a promise to her not to bring it up not to discuss it and certainly not tell anybody so I put it... I buried it and as life went on it was easier to not think about it,” Birnbach testified.
“It was her life, her story, not my story. She clearly didn’t want to tell anybody what happened and I honored that,” Birnbach testified.
Earlier this week, Carroll herself testified, per ABC News:
“Why did you think it was your fault, Ms. Carroll?” her attorney, Michael Ferrara, asked.
“Because I was flirting with him and laughing and having one of the great times. It was high comedy. It was funny,” Carroll said.
In cross-examination by Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina, Carroll was asked a number of questions about why she didn’t fight back—so much so that eventually, per the New York Times, Carroll yelled: “I’m not a screamer. You can’t beat up on me for not screaming.”
Tacopina said he wasn’t berating her, but Carroll remained steadfast. “Women who come forward, one of the reasons they don’t come forward is because they are always asked why didn’t you scream,” Carroll testified. “Some women scream. Some women don’t. ”
Jessica Leeds, now 81, also testified on Carroll’s behalf this week, alleging that the former president also sexually assaulted her while both flew first class in the late 1970s. She expected to fly coach, but was given an empty seat in first class, per her testimony.
After they ate the offered meal in first class, it was “all of a sudden” that Trump tried to kiss and grope her, Leeds said. “There was no conversation. It was like out of the blue.”
“It was like a tussle,” she said.
“He was trying to kiss me. He was trying to pull me toward him. He was grabbing my breasts. It was like he had 40 zillion hands. It was a tussling match between the two of us,” she said.
It was when Trump started to slide his hand up her skirt that she found a jolt of strength to fight to break free, Leeds testified. “I managed to wiggle out of my seat and went storming back to my seat in coach,” she said.
Leeds said she waited for the entire plane to exit before she left. No one intervened, she said. “Men could basically get away with a lot and that’s sort of where I put it,” Leeds said.
Carroll shared the sentiment. “Women like me were taught and trained to keep our chins up and to not complain,” she said, per the Times. “The fact that I never went to the police is not surprising for someone my age.”
Both sides are expected to rest by Thursday, thereby sending the case to a jury of six men and three women before the end of the week.