On Tuesday 9 May 2023, a jury found former US President Donald Trump guilty for the defamation and sexual assault of American columnist E. Jean Carroll. The jurors deliberated for a mere three hours before conclusively deciding that Trump was liable, not for rape but definitely for sexual assault.
And while the only penalty the business tycoon and fraud will face is financial, $5 million in punitive damages to be specific, those of us with half a conscience breathed a sigh of relief and contentedness yesterday, after realising that for once in his life, Trump was finally going to be held accountable for his actions.
For those of you unfamiliar with the case, the journalist first sued the former President in 2022, after New York passed legislation following the #MeToo movement which gave adult victims of sexual assault a window of one year to sue their assailants in cases where the statute of limitations has expired.
The assault which Carroll was seeking damages for occurred 27 years ago, in 1996 in a department store, as reported by The Guardian. Carroll stated that Trump cornered her in a dressing room and raped her.
The former Elle columnist also sued Trump on defamation grounds. When Carroll first went public with the allegations in 2019, Trump pursued an explicit and highly personal smear campaign, deeming Carroll a liar, insisting he didn’t know her and proceeding to damage her reputation. During a pre-trial deposition, Trump also stated that Carroll “wouldn’t be my type in any way, shape, or form.” Presumably, that was his attempt at an adequate defence position? Not sure what else I expected.
In a written statement addressing her victory, Carroll noted: “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.” Trump’s legal team have stated that they plan to appeal the decision.
Now that the jury has officially found Trump guilty, it’s important to consider what the future holds for the former The Apprentice host. Realistically, this civil case won’t inherently impact Trump’s goals of running once again for president in 2024. Trump hasn’t been charged with any criminal convictions and so, as the constitution states, he’s still fully eligible to run for the presidency.
According to recent polls, Trump’s reach may be slightly narrower than it was in 2016 when he first ran for president, however those who’re still donning MAGA hats and hoarding guns in their basements are as loyal as ever. In a hypothetical match of Trump versus current commander-in-chief Joe Biden, 93 per cent of polled voters who supported Trump in 2020 approve of the job he did as president. What’s more, 45 per cent stated that they are more excited about voting for him in 2024 than they were last time. Scary stuff.
As some of you may remember, Trump was officially arraigned in April—making him the first former president to ever face criminal charges. Clearly a fan of firsts this one with the Carroll civil case also making him the first former president to ever be legally found guilty of sexual assault. So, with this indictment in the works and the recent civil case verdict, is Trump officially about to be taken down once and for all?
Some of the most damaging investigations Trump is facing, aside from the ongoing Manhattan criminal case involving porn star Stormy Daniels, include: a classified documents inquiry, a New York State civil inquiry which concerns Trump overvaluing his assets, a Georgia criminal inquiry involving whether or not the politician interfered with the 2020 presidential election results in the Southeastern state and a final investigation involving Trump’s role in the 6 January Capitol riots and insurrection. In short, the man is going to be pretty booked up this year.
While it’s not fully known whether or not the fact that Trump has been officially found guilty of sexual assault will ultimately impact the other cases he faces, it’s important to note how historically significant this case has been. When it comes to the court of public opinion, Trump supporters have notoriously strong stomachs, so the only way we can finally put a stop to his nonsense is by getting him behind bars.
A number of the investigations facing Trump have so far been predominantly symbolic, ways in which to embarrass him publicly and maybe encourage the Republican establishment to take a firmer stance in distancing themselves from him. But, perhaps these recent revelations will be the smoking gun US prosecutors need to once and for all jumpstart a new era of American democracy and diplomacy. Or not…