Sunday, July 14, 2024

Opinion | The E. Jean Carroll suit brought an astonishing moment of accountability

Opinion | The E. Jean Carroll suit brought an astonishing moment of accountability

Tuesday brought an astonishing moment of accountability for Donald Trump. The former president, who leads in the latest polling for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, has not just been credibly accused of sexual abuse but found liable for it by a jury of his peers. That and the behavior he showcased at trial should remind voters of what they rejected in 2020.

Mr. Trump received a fair trial. A mixed decision after three hours of deliberations underscores that jurors weren’t out to get him: The six men and three women did not find Mr. Trump liable for allegedly raping E. Jean Carroll, as she claimed, but they agreed that he was liable for sexually abusing and defaming her, awarding her $5 million in damages.

Ms. Carroll testified in graphic detail over three days about what she says happened in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. Two of Ms. Carroll’s friends corroborated that she told them about it shortly afterward, and two other women told their own stories during sworn testimony about run-ins with Mr. Trump. They are among more than a dozen women who have accused Mr. Trump of sexual assault or misconduct. In every case, he has categorically denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Trump declined to appear either on the stand or in the courtroom to face his accuser, as was his right. Instead, jurors watched video of his deposition in which he mistook a picture of Ms. Carroll for that of his second wife. That undercut his claim that the former Miss Indiana University wasn’t his type.

More damningly, he doubled down on his notorious comments in the “Access Hollywood” tape. Asked about his boast that he could grab women by the genitals because “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Mr. Trump said: “Historically, that’s true.” He added: “Unfortunately or fortunately.”

Because this was a civil case, the jury needed to find only that a preponderance of evidence supported Ms. Carroll’s claims. In a criminal trial, prosecutors would have needed to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt — a higher standard. Just like this jury, the American people might sit in judgment of Mr. Trump next year. The standard in an election is even lower than in a civil trial. It’s whatever each voter wants it to be. But the stakes are vastly higher for the destiny of the Republic. And Mr. Trump has shown himself to be odious, beyond any doubt.

The Post’s View | About the Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Opinion Editor David Shipley; Deputy Opinion Editor Karen Tumulty; Associate Opinion Editor Stephen Stromberg (national politics and policy); Lee Hockstader (European affairs, based in Paris); David E. Hoffman (global public health); James Hohmann (domestic policy and electoral politics, including the White House, Congress and governors); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Associate Editor Ruth Marcus; Mili Mitra (public policy solutions and audience development); Keith B. Richburg (foreign affairs); and Molly Roberts (technology and society).

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