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NEW YORK, April 26 — Testimony began today at the civil trial for a nearly 30-year-old rape claim against Donald Trump in Manhattan, where a former Elle magazine advice columnist accuses the former US president of sexually assaulting her and then lying about it.

E. Jean Carroll has said Trump manoeuvered her into a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in late 1995 or early 1996, after seeking her help in buying lingerie for another woman.

Carroll, 79, said that once they were alone, Trump shut the door, forced her against a wall and raped her, until she was able to flee after two or three minutes.

Trump, 76, has forcefully denied raping Carroll, saying she was not his “type” and made up the claim to promote her 2019 memoir, “What Do We Need Men For?”

He is not attending the trial. Nor is he required to be there. Carroll does not plan to call Trump as a witness, and Trump’s lawyers have signaled he may not testify.

Trump nonetheless stood by his criticism of Carroll in two posts today on his Truth Social platform.

“Does anybody believe that I would take a then almost 60 year old woman that I didn’t know, from the front door of a very crowded department store, (with me being very well known, to put it mildly!), into a tiny dressing room,” Trump wrote. “She didn’t scream? There are no witnesses? Nobody saw this?”

Trump also called Carroll’s accusations “a made up SCAM” and said: “This is a fraudulent & false story—Witch Hunt!”

Carroll was about 52 and Trump was 49 at the time of the alleged rape.

His posts prompted an exchange before the jury was seated between U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversees the case, and Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina.

Kaplan expressed concern that Trump’s posting could amount to “tampering” with the trial.

Tacopina told the judge he would speak with Trump on Wednesday, and “ask him to refrain from any further posts on this case…. I will do the best I can do.”

The first witness to testify, Cheryl Beall, described the layout of the store where the alleged rape occurred.

Carroll, 79, is suing Trump for defamation after he denied her rape claim in an October post on Truth Social.

She is also suing under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which lets adults sue their alleged abusers long after statutes of limitations have run out.

A six-man, three-woman jury is expected to decide whether to hold Trump liable for damages, and, if so, how much he owes Carroll in damages.

The trial is expected to last one to two weeks.

Other possible witnesses for Carroll include two friends in whom she confided about Trump’s alleged rape, and two other women who have accused Trump of sexual assault.

Trump is the Republican front-runner in the 2024 US presidential election.

In her opening statement on Tuesday, Shawn Crowley, one of Carroll’s lawyers, told jurors that the evidence made the trial more than a “he said, she said” dispute.

In his opening statement, Tacopina countered that the evidence was not there, and that if jurors in heavily Democratic Manhattan did not like Trump, they should express themselves at the ballot box, not in court. — Reuters

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