NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers won’t be allowed to tell jurors next week that he’d like to testify at a rape trial but might decide against it because he wants to spare New York City from logistical burdens posed by his presence, a federal judge said Thursday.
“Mr. Trump is free to attend, to testify, or both. He is free also to do none of those things,” Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote in an order five days before the start of a civil trial.
The trial stems from columnist E. Jean Carroll’s claims that the Republican raped her in late 1995 or early 1996 in the dressing room of a luxury Manhattan department store. She is seeking unspecified damages.
Trump has said the encounter never happened and Carroll was trying to stoke sales of a 2019 memoir when she first publicly claimed that the two of them ended up in a dressing room after a chance encounter and a playful interlude.
Kaplan warned Trump’s lawyers to make no references to “Mr. Trump’s alleged desire to testify or to the burdens that any absence on his part allegedly might spare, or might have spared, the Court or the City of New York.”
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina asked Kaplan on Wednesday to instruct the jury at the trial that Trump’s absence was intended to spare New York City and the court system from the logistical burdens his presence would entail.
On Thursday, Tacopina responded to a deadline set by the judge to let him know whether Trump would attend the trial by saying it was too early to say, since that’s a decision Trump will make during the trial.
In his order, the judge noted that Trump announced earlier this week that he’ll speak at a campaign event in New Hampshire on April 27, the third day of the scheduled trial.
“If the Secret Service can protect him at that event, certainly the Secret Service, the Marshals Service, and the City of New York can see to his security in this very secure federal courthouse,” Kaplan wrote.
On Wednesday, Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan in a letter to the judge mocked Trump’s proposed jury instruction, saying Trump manages to make it to wrestling championships, political conventions, civil depositions and campaign functions.
If so, she wrote, “then surely he could surmount the logistics of attending his own federal trial.”