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Trump CNN town hall highlights include comments on E. Jean Carroll verdict, Jan. 6 and more

Trump repeats election lies in CNN town hall
Trump repeats election lies, disparages E. Jean Carroll in CNN town hall 03:32

Former President Donald Trump disparaged writer E. Jean Carroll in a CNN town hall Wednesday night, one day after a federal jury in New York found him liable for battery and defamation in a civil trial stemming from allegations he raped Carroll in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. 

The jury did not find Trump liable for rape but did find that he sexually abused Carroll and then defamed her when she came forward several years ago. Carroll was awarded $5 million total in damages. After the verdict, Trump claimed that he didn't know Carroll and that he was "silenced" from speaking publicly about the case, despite the fact that the court gave him multiple opportunities to speak at the trial and he declined to do so. 

On Wednesday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump decried the jury's verdict in the civil case and called Carroll a "whack job," using language similar to that which led to his defamation verdict in the first place. Trump called Carroll's story "fake" and "made up," even though a jury unanimously and swiftly agreed on the verdict. Trump was asked what he tells voters who say the verdict disqualifies him from being president. 

"Well, there aren't too many of them because my poll numbers just came out — they went up," Trump said to the delight of some in the audience.  The audience was composed of Republicans and undecided voters, according to CNN. Multiple voters who asked Trump questions voted for him in 2020. 

It's unclear what poll Trump is referring to since no major polls were both taken and released in the barely 24 hours since the verdict. 

Trump called the trial a "rigged deal." He also mocked Carroll's allegation that he sexually assaulted her in the department store, and swore on his children's lives that he did not assault Carroll.

"She wasn't raped, OK? … And I didn't do anything else either, OK, because I don't know who the hell she is," Trump said to laughter from the audience. 

CBS News has reached out to Carroll's lawyer for comment. After the verdict was read Tuesday, Carroll said in a statement, "I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back. Today, the world finally knows the truth. This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed."

Kimberly Rice, a Republican and former speaker pro tempore of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, told CBS News' Robert Costa earlier Wednesday that she hopes everyone takes the verdict seriously. 

"I've been in a position before where a boss has chased me around. And, you know, women should be believed," she said. "The jurors saw the evidence … Just because you're a celebrity does not give you a right to sexually abuse anyone." 

Rice, however, doubted the impact the verdict may have on Trump's stronghold of the Republican base. 

"His followers are very devoted, you know, and that's up to them. I don't speak for, you know, everyone or, or pretend to. I just know how I feel in my heart," she said. 

Supporters of Donald Trump in New Hampshire
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside the venue where Trump took part in a CNN campaign town hall event in Manchester, New Hampshire on May 10, 2023. Brian Snyder/Reuters

Trump on January 6

On another topic, Trump said in Wednesday night's town hall that he's "inclined" to pardon his supporters convicted of various charges for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol and efforts to alter the results of the election. 

"I am inclined to pardon many of them," Trump said. "I can't say for every single one because a couple of them, probably, they got out of control."

Trump said it would be a "large portion" of convicted rioters, who he called "great people," that he would pardon, adding that alleged rioters sitting in jail are "living in hell." 

Asked whether he has any regrets about that day, Trump emphasized how large the crowd was that day, and said his supporters showed up in D.C. "with love in their heart." 

The former president also called Ashli Babbitt, the Trump supporter who was shot and killed by Capitol Police and has since been martyred by the far-right, a "patriot" and called the police officer who fatally shot her "a thug." 

Trump was also asked if his vice president, Mike Pence, deserved an apology for the actions of the Jan. 6 rioters, who threatened to hang Mike Pence as the assault on the Capitol was unfolding. Trump declined to offer one "because he did something wrong."

"He should have put the votes back to the state legislatures and I think we would have had a different outcome," Trump said.  

On several occasions, Trump claimed without evidence that the 2020 election was "rigged" in favor of President Joe Biden. One voter asked Trump if he would "suspend polarizing talk of election fraud" during his run for president. 

Trump equivocated. "Yeah — unless I see election fraud," he responded.

Kaitlin Collins, the CNN anchor moderating the town hall, pointed out that the former president and his team lost more than 60 lawsuits alleging that the 2020 election was fraudulent. 

Debt ceiling: Tells GOP members of Congress, "if they don't give you massive cuts, you're going to have to do a default."

The impasse over the debt ceiling continues, and Trump proposed that Republicans should not give in on their insistence on spending cuts in exchange for raising or suspending the debt limit. 

"I say to the Republicans out there — congressmen, senators — if they don't give you massive cuts, you're going to have to do a default. And I don't believe they're going to do a default because I think the Democrats will absolutely cave because you don't want to have that happen. But it's better than what we're doing right now because we're spending money like drunken sailors."

Asked by Collins if he thought the U.S. "should default if the White House does not agree to the spending cuts Republicans are demanding," Trump replied, "Well, you might as well do it now because you'll do it later."

Russia-Ukraine war

Trump also equivocated on whether he wants Ukraine to win, as Russia continues its unilateral assault on the sovereign nation. 

Asked if he wants Ukraine to win the war, Trump said, "I don't think in terms of winning and losing." Pressed again if he wants Ukraine or Russia to win the war, Trump said, "I want everybody to stop dying. They're dying, Russians and Ukrainians." 

The former president complained that the U.S. has provided more funding to Ukraine for the war than European nations have, and he would not say whether if elected, he would continue to give Ukraine weapons and funding. 

"Let me just put it a nicer way," he said. "If I'm president, I will have that war settled in one day, 24 hours." Asked to elaborate, Trump responded, "First, I'll meet with Putin. I'll meet with Zelenskyy. They both have weaknesses and they both have strengths. And within 24 hours that war will be settled. It will be over."

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