Former President Donald Trump “mucked up” his defense against E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegations with one “huge blunder,” according to former prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers.
Carroll, a former Elle columnist, has accused Trump of raping her at a Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City in the mid-1990s, then repeatedly defaming her character by denying the alleged assault took place. Trump has maintained his innocence, saying that he never raped Carroll, who sued him for defamation. Both sides rested their case in the seven-day legal trial this week, placing the final decision in the hands of the jury.
During the trial on Friday, unsealed video footage appeared to contradict one of Trump’s key defense points. The former president has repeatedly said that Carroll is not his “type,” but mistook a photograph of her as his ex-wife Marla Maples during a deposition.
Rodgers, an attorney and CNN legal analyst, said during a Saturday appearance on the network that this mistake “mucked up” his legal defense.
She said the argument that Trump could have not raped Carroll because he is not attracted to her does not hold up because rape “is not really about sexual attraction.” A stronger defense would have focused on the defendant’s character, Rodgers added.
“He can’t do that here. Why? Because that is not his character. He couldn’t find any witnesses to say that. In fact, quite the opposite. There would be dozens of witnesses on the other side to testify to the contrary,” she said. “So he’s left with this ridiculous defense of, ‘Gee. I don’t really find her attractive.’ And now that’s not even really available to him either, because he’s mucked it up with this photo.”
Newsweek reached out to Trump’s campaign via email for comment.
Trump has thus far declined to testify before the jury, though New York District Judge Lewis Kaplan offered an extended deadline for Trump to testify in his own defense, giving the former president’s legal team until 5 p.m. on Sunday to petition the court to reopen the case.
Renato Mariotti, another former federal prosecutor, also said on CNN that Trump’s legal team would take a “very serious risk” by not having the former president testify, as the jury will not have an “emotional connection” to Trump.
Mariotti added that Trump’s absence at court proceedings may also signal to the jury that he is not taking the trial seriously.
“Unless they totally disbelieve everything Carroll has said and the other witnesses, I think that really, Trump and his team are putting themselves in a position to lose this case,” he said.
Trump told reporters at his golf course in Doonbeg, Ireland, on Thursday that he will “probably” attend the trial, commenting: “I will probably attend [the trial] and I think it’s a disgrace that it’s allowed to happen, false accusations against a rich guy, or in my case against a famous, rich and political person.”