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E. Jean Carroll Is Finished... And Trump Might Be, Too

Yesterday marked the third and (likely) final day of testimony by E. Jean Carroll in her case against Donald Trump. It did not go well for the former president, to say the least.

It was painfully obvious to approximately 99.99% of people, including us, that Trump's lead counsel, Joe Tacopina, was a terrible fit for this trial. First of all, he's not a particularly skillful lawyer, on the whole. Second, his bulldog style does not play well for a jury when the target is an elderly woman who says she was sexually assaulted. This stylistic problem was on full display yesterday as Tacopina badgered Carroll, using every sleazy trick in the book to advance his misogynistic theory of the case that Carroll is just after money and fame, and that to the extent that anything happened between her and Trump, she's making mountains out of molehills.

And it gets worse, at least potentially, when it comes to lawyerly screw-ups. In his second-by-second examination of the incident, Tacopina focused on an exchange between Carroll and Trump wherein he asked her to try on some lingerie for him, and she deflected with jokes and suggested he try it on instead. This is an exceedingly common technique, used mostly by women, in response to what's known as sexual overperception bias (SOB, as chance would have it). SOB refers to the tendency of (almost always) men to overestimate sexual interest on the part of (almost always) women; the targets (again, almost always women) tend to resolve this gently and indirectly, either with little white lies ("Sorry, I have a boyfriend") or jokes. Carroll explained as much on the stand: "Laughing is a very good—I use the word weapon—to calm a man down if he has any erotic intention."

In other words, Carroll once again told a very believable story, and Tacopina would have been well-served to drop it and move on, but he did not. And in so doing, as Salon's Amanda Marcotte points out, he may well have given the jury the final piece of the puzzle. Recall that among the lingering questions here, which Tacopina himself has raised, are: "Why would Trump get so violent, so rapidly, with this particular person?" Recall also that Trump hates, hates, hates to be the butt of jokes, and also that the only other rape accusation made publicly against him came from his ex-wife Ivana Trump, who said she was raped by her then-husband when he was angry about some botched plastic surgery (Ivana later recanted this, though she may have been under financial duress).

What it all points to is this: Trump's controlling emotion here, assuming he's guilty of the acts Carroll accuses him of, might not have been lust but instead anger. This is consistent with most scholarship on sexual violence, which proposes that such acts are not so much about sexual gratification as they are about power. It would also address the question of "Why would Trump get so violent, so rapidly, with this particular person?" Short answer: He was humiliated by her teasing him about putting on women's lingerie and wanted to punish her on the spot. If he had been interested in an actual romantic interlude, he could have invited her to a fabulous dinner at the best restaurant in New York or something like that and had his 90 seconds of fun later in a more relaxed atmosphere, possibly with repeat performances later on. After all, he kept Karen McDougal at it for 10 months.

We weren't in the courtroom, of course, and you can never know for sure what the 9 (in this case) members of a jury might do. But we'll also point out that Trump's legal team tried, and failed to secure a mistrial yesterday, based on the argument that Judge Lewis Kaplan had made "pervasive unfair and prejudicial rulings" against the former president. We did not go to law school, but our sneaking suspicion is that you do not generally ask to start over from scratch if you think your side is winning. (Z)

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