Inside Trump’s Costly Outburst: ‘Like an 8-Year-Old Having a Temper Tantrum’
Later on, as we got closer to trial, we realized we needed someone to be able to describe what Bergdorf Goodman was like in those years and why it was not even remotely implausible that you could be in the lingerie department on the sixth floor on a Thursday evening and have no one around. So we went looking for Bergdorf Goodman witnesses, and we had two that testified at the first trial — both former employees.
Here’s the problem with representing a writer — so I hope you never get involved in a lawsuit, Ankush — they have a lot of documents to produce. E. Jean writes a lot, she gets a lot of correspondence, especially as an advice columnist. We had to immediately collect all that and go through it.
The discovery phase is one part of the process. But then you and your colleagues have to construct a case for trial, which is a process of editing, sequencing, thinking about how to tell a story. Tell me about how you constructed the trial presentation after discovery.
I think the hardest piece to build in this case, and honestly, the hardest piece for E. Jean personally, was to get E. Jean in a place where she could say out loud that she’d been harmed psychologically — and otherwise, frankly — by the assault.
She grew up in Indiana outside of Fort Wayne. Her parents — I think she said their two rules were “always look on the bright side” and “always smile.” Their family never talked about bad things. They just didn’t talk about it.
E. Jean worked in the era of gonzo journalism — there were very few women who succeeded and wrote for tons of magazines. I think she saw herself as being the kind of woman who could just do anything — never complained, up for anything. So it was very, very hard.
It was very hard for her to use the word “rape.” It was very hard for her to acknowledge that she’d been hurt by it. And it was really during the case itself — like somewhere in her head — she knew that she’d been unable to date any man since what happened, but she had a really hard time acknowledging the link.
And just so people understand: The reason for the link is — and this is a classic response to trauma — she believed that she was at fault for when she ran into Trump at the store for kind of having this jocular, kind of flirty conversation together, which they were, for sure, until he pushed her into the dressing room. And she blamed herself and thought that was a stupid thing to do. And as a result, since the assault, she had been unable to flirt with a man who was eligible because that had gotten her into such trouble.
And believe me, she had plenty of opportunities. She’s still gorgeous. She’s always been. She’s a beauty queen, just unbelievably beautiful.
So we knew that we had to get her there, and that was the single hardest thing we did. We found this expert, Leslie Lebowitz, who was one of the people who really started — with a bunch of other people in Cambridge, Massachusetts — with the idea of trauma studies. Leslie had started by working with Vietnam War veterans but has since branched out. And in certain ways, the prep that Leslie did — the work that she did talking to E. Jean for her testimony — was in a way a kind of therapy for E. Jean, too. Because it helped her to understand these things.
The tactical decisions of Trump’s lawyers, even Trump himself, have come under scrutiny. I want to briefly go back to discovery, when you deposed Trump.
That video became somewhat infamous because of some of the comments he made, and you introduced some of that at trial.
I once heard that when you all took a break for lunch — my understanding is that the deposition was at Trump’s lawyers’ offices — that Trump’s lawyers had arranged lunch for everyone, and Trump got angry about that and had what was described to me by someone else as a “meltdown.” Did that actually happen?
That is true, but two things I have to correct.
One, it was at Mar-a-Lago. And it was not the deposition for E. Jean. It was the deposition the week before in the fraud case.
At E. Jean’s deposition, someone had spoken to him, so they actually provided us a free lunch without any protests.
What happened the week before?
The week before, we were about 11:30 in the morning, and I said, “Sir, I have one more topic I want to cover, but is it okay after I cover that we break for lunch?”
He said something like, “Well, why should we break for lunch? Why can’t we go straight through? Let’s just get this over with.” And I said, “Well, look, I would do that, but there’s a court reporter, there’s a videographer that needs a break, so we’re going to break for lunch.”
And then you can kind of see his brain working. He says, “Well you’re here at Mar-a-Lago. What do you think you’re going to do for lunch?” And I said, “Well, I’ve spoken to your lawyers about that issue, and they graciously offered to provide us with lunch.”
At which point he took the pile of exhibits — which as you know, Ankush, was probably a good two feet high to that point — and just threw it across the table.
Then they did provide us with a lunch. It was late, but we did get lunch, and then when Trump came back, he said to me, “So how’d you like the lunch?” And I said, “Well, actually, I just had a banana, but thank you very much.”
Some of this was in front of the jury —
A lot of it.
Could you tell what they were thinking? Were they shaking their heads? Were they rolling their eyes?
This jury was very hard to read. I think they felt because of their anonymity — and probably because of the seriousness of the case — they must have felt that they shouldn’t look at us. They really looked down. There were some men in the front — seven men and two women — and literally, I don’t think they ever looked up. They were taking notes, and I never met eye contact with any of them.
Yeah. They were all very hard to read. It was very interesting.
At the end, after the verdict, as they were walking out and after Judge Kaplan gave them advice [to maintain their anonymity], two or three of them, including at least one of the men sitting in the front who we couldn’t read at all, smiled directly at E. Jean and nodded their heads. That was the first reaction we’d gotten.