Is $83.3 Million Enough to Make Trump Stop Lying?


A jury in New York today put a price on Donald Trump’s inability to keep his mouth shut, awarding the writer E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages in a defamation lawsuit.

It’s the second time a jury has ordered Trump to pay Carroll. She alleged in 2019 that Trump raped her in a department-store dressing room in the 1990s. When Trump denied it, Carroll sued him for defamation and battery. Last May, a jury found Trump liable for assaulting her and awarded her $5 million. But Trump responded by continuing to verbally attack Carroll, so she sued again.

Although Trump’s fortune is enormous, usually estimated in the billions, he is likely to feel the cost of today’s verdict. First, he is a notorious skinflint—he once cashed a 16-cent check sent to him as a prank by Spy magazine—so any cost, especially one denominated in eight figures, will pain him. Second, much of his net worth is tied up in illiquid assets such as real estate or intangible ones such as brand value. The former president sometimes acts like he has limited cash flow, so coming up with $83 million (if that amount is sustained) might not be simple. Trump has already said he’ll appeal.The first $5 million judgment is being held in escrow while Trump appeals that, too.

[David A. Graham: The cases against Donald Trump—a guide]

The second defamation case was entirely an own goal by Trump. Having lost the first case, all he really had to do was stop publicly assailing Carroll. He didn’t have to admit that he was wrong. He didn’t have to admit that he had sexually assaulted Carroll. He didn’t even have to admit that he had defamed her. He just had to stay quiet.

But this being Trump, he couldn’t do it. Even as the trial proceeded, and all signs suggested that Trump was in for a rough verdict, he kept at it. He attacked Carroll with dozens of missives on his social-media site. While campaigning in Iowa this month, he said she’d made up her story. He behaved no differently in court. Yesterday, he testified for less than five minutes but still managed to call the accusation false, earning a rebuke from Judge Lewis Kaplan, who said Trump could not re-litigate the first defamation trial.

[David A. Graham: The astonishing E. Jean Carroll verdict ]

The latest verdict will indicate whether there’s any amount of financial cost that can keep Trump quiet. If he keeps going, all signs would point to another case from Carroll, presumably with similar (or larger) results. In a way, the question raised here is the same as the one raised by the several other cases against Trump. Is there any sanction so dire that it can keep Trump from lying?

A civil case in New York could cost him his ability to do business in the state and some of his marquee buildings. The criminal cases against him in Washington, D.C.; Fulton County, Georgia; and Florida could even cost him his freedom.

So far, Trump can’t stop saying things that get him into trouble and then deepen it. He is unable to stay out of the public eye, because he is running for president. And once he’s there, he appears psychologically unable to stop making the same bogus claims. Never before has it cost him so dearly.



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