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What to Know as Trump Is Deposed in E. Jean Carroll Suit Accusing Him of Rape

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Three years after the writer E. Jean Carroll sued Donald J. Trump for defamation in New York, the former president submitted to a sworn deposition on Wednesday at Mar-a-Lago, his residence and private club in Florida.

What is the case about?

Ms. Carroll, in a 2019 book and excerpt in New York magazine, accused Mr. Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s at the department store Bergdorf Goodman. She said that he pushed her against a dressing room wall, pulled down her tights, opened his pants and forced himself upon her.

E. Jean Carroll has said that she plans to file a second case against the former president under a newly passed state law.

Mr. Trump said that he had never met Ms. Carroll, that she was “totally lying” and that she was not his “type.”

In her suit, Ms. Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, said Mr. Trump’s statements had harmed her reputation.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, last month asked Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan to delay the deposition while a key question about the suit was considered on appeal. Ms. Habba argued that if her client won that appeal, there would be no need for a deposition. Judge Kaplan denied the request on Oct. 12, finding that Mr. Trump had litigated the case “with the effect and probably the purpose of delaying it.” The trial is scheduled for Feb. 6.

Late Wednesday, a spokesman for Ms. Carroll’s lawyers at the firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink said in a statement: “We’re pleased that on behalf of our client, E. Jean Carroll, we were able to take Donald Trump’s deposition today. We are not able to comment further.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Ms. Habba, did not respond to a request for comment.

What position had Mr. Trump been expected to take?

Ms. Habba, in unsuccessfully seeking to postpone the deposition, wrote to Judge Kaplan that her client was nonetheless “ready and eager to sit” for questioning.

Mr. Trump has made it clear he has not changed his public position on Ms. Carroll’s allegations.

After Judge Kaplan denied Mr. Trump’s request to delay, Mr. Trump blasted Ms. Carroll in a lengthy social media post, repeating the kind of statements that had prompted her to sue in the first place.

“This ‘Ms. Bergdorf Goodman’ case is a complete con job,” Mr. Trump said in his statement. He said that Ms. Carroll was not telling the truth, that he did not know her — and that she was not his type: “While I am not supposed to say it, I will.”

Ms. Carroll’s lawyers said through a spokesman that Mr. Trump’s statement “obviously does not merit a response.”

Will the public see Mr. Trump’s deposition?

The court has imposed a routine order that would allow Mr. Trump and Ms. Carroll to keep their depositions confidential throughout the pretrial discovery process. It is not known whether Mr. Trump will ask that his deposition be treated as confidential.

Neither party’s lawyers released information about the deposition Wednesday.

Will the defamation case be short-circuited?

After Ms. Carroll sued in state court in Manhattan in 2019, the Justice Department, then led by Attorney General William P. Barr, abruptly intervened on Mr. Trump’s behalf in September 2020, citing a law intended to protect federal employees from litigation stemming from their official duties.

The Justice Department moved the case into federal court and sought to substitute the United States for Mr. Trump as the defendant. That maneuver, if successful, would be likely to result in the lawsuit’s dismissal, as the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.

In October 2020, Judge Kaplan rejected the department’s attempt to intervene in the case, saying Mr. Trump was not performing official duties when he made his statements about Ms. Carroll.

“His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office,” Judge Kaplan wrote, “and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States.”

Last month, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled by a 2-to-1 vote that the president is an employee of the federal government, but it did not decide whether he was acting in that capacity when he made his statements about Ms. Carroll. The panel asked the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to answer that question, because Mr. Trump had made his statements in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Ms. Habba, had argued that her client’s deposition should be delayed until the D.C. appeals court ruled. But in his denial last week, Judge Kaplan noted that a ruling from the D.C. court could take a long time.

“Perhaps most significant,” Judge Kaplan wrote, both Ms. Carroll, 78, and Mr. Trump, 76, and perhaps other witnesses in the case, were already of advanced age. “The defendant should not be permitted to run the clock out,” the judge wrote, on Ms. Carroll’s “attempt to gain a remedy for what allegedly was a serious wrong.”

The deposition could matter even if Ms. Carroll’s defamation suit dies.

Ms. Carroll’s lawyers have said that she plans to file a separate case against Mr. Trump in November under a new state law allowing adult sexual assault victims a one-time opportunity to sue, even if the statute of limitations has expired.

That suit will probably end up before Judge Kaplan under the federal court’s rules on related cases.

Given the potential filing of the second lawsuit, the judge wrote last week, there was no reason to delay Mr. Trump’s deposition.

“The question whether Mr. Trump in fact raped Ms. Carroll is central to this case,” Judge Kaplan wrote. “But it will be central also to the new case.”

What other legal actions does the former president face?

There are investigations by the Justice Department and Congress into Mr. Trump’s role in the events of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and the department also has been scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s removal of thousands of sensitive government documents when he left the White House. Mr. Trump’s potential interference in Georgia’s election results is under investigation by the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney. Mr. Trump has not been accused of wrongdoing in those inquiries.

Last month, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, sued Mr. Trump, accusing him, three of his children and his family business of lying to lenders and insurers by fraudulently overvaluing his assets. Mr. Trump, in a post on Truth Social, attacked Ms. James and the investigation as “Another Witch Hunt by a racist Attorney General.” The office of Alvin L. Bragg, Manhattan’s district attorney, has also been conducting a criminal investigation into some of the same issues covered in Ms. James’s inquiry.

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