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Judge rejects Trump's request to delay New York rape trial

Trump back in NYC for another deposition
Trump deposed for second time by New York prosecutors 04:11

A federal judge rejected a request Thursday to delay former President Donald Trump's trial this month on civil claims that he raped a woman in the mid-1990s, but he has granted a request by Trump's lawyers to gather more evidence about who is paying the accuser's lawyers.

New revelations that a major contributor to Democrats helped finance the litigation against Trump by columnist E. Jean Carroll prompted attorney Alina Habba to ask for a one-month delay of the April 25 trial.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said he would allow lawyers for Trump to gather more information and to question Carroll for up to one hour about why she said in an October deposition that her lawyers were relying on a contingency fee in the case and were not receiving other income.

Habba's request is the second time this week that a Trump lawyer has asked to delay the trial on Carroll's allegations that Trump raped her in 1996 in an upscale Manhattan department store dressing room.

Earlier this week, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina asked for a one-month delay, saying adverse publicity over Trump's arrest last week on criminal charges in New York state court made a delay necessary.

In a letter to the judge, Tacopina alleged that since Trump first posted last month that he would be arrested, media coverage of the former president spiked 200%, and he claimed online searches related to the Carroll cases had also increased.

"The indictment therefore drove a more four-fold increase of coverage in this case, which reflects the predictable and troubling tendency to view the criminal allegations against President Trump as relevant to Ms. Carroll's allegations in this civil action," Tacopina wrote.  

Trump has denied that he raped Carroll and has accused the former longtime Elle magazine advice columnist and her lawyer of being politically driven after Carroll disclosed her claims for the first time publicly in a 2019 memoir while Trump was still president.

Carroll alleges the assault occurred in late 1995 or early 1996 in the dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store. 

"The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall," she wrote in her memoir.   

In her letter to the court Thursday, Habba said Carroll's lawyers had disclosed for the first time this week that they had received funding from American Future Republic, a social welfare organization funded by Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn.

Habba wrote that the revelation raises significant questions about Carroll's credibility and motives for suing Trump in November after New York state enacted a law allowing victims more time to sue those who committed sexual abuse against them, even if it happened decades ago.

Habba said it also goes to the heart of Trump's defense because he has consistently labeled Carroll's claims a "con job" and a "hoax" and has questioned whether she is pushing a political agenda or being funded by a rival political party.

Hoffman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Roberta Kaplan, Carroll's lawyer, responded in a letter to the court Thursday, asking the judge to deny Trump's latest bid for a delay to the trial.

"One thing is clear — Trump will stop at nothing to avoid having a jury hear Carroll's claims," she wrote.

Kaplan said her client was preparing for trial recently when she recalled hearing that her lawyers, who were operating on a contingency fee basis, had also secured funding from a nonprofit organization. Carroll's lawyers then notified Trump's lawyers, who demanded to know the source of the funding.

Meanwhile, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals released a written opinion Thursday providing additional legal insight that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can use to decide if the United States can be substituted for Trump as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit Carroll filed before her November rape lawsuit.

The 2nd Circuit had asked the D.C. court to provide insight into a law addressing when an employer should be liable for the actions of its employee.

The D.C. court said it lacked facts to recommend whether it believed that allegedly libelous statements Trump made after Carroll's rape claims became public fell within the scope of his employment as president.

It did attempt to clarify the law, though it noted that most of its case law on the subject pertained to disputes over whether law enforcement individuals could be held personally liable.

The defamation lawsuit eventually will be dismissed if the U.S. is substituted as a defendant, and a trial might become unnecessary otherwise because the November rape lawsuit also contains a defamation claim against Trump.

Trump, meanwhile, was in New York City on Thursday, where he was deposed for the second time in a different lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James alleging years of fraud by Trump, his family and the Trump Organization. Trump and his legal team were at the attorney general's offices in Manhattan for about eight hours. 

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