Roberta Kaplan was E. Jean Carroll’s lawyer and Trump’s nemesis


The meeting quickly turned ugly.

In October 2022, Roberta Kaplan flew to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to question him under oath in the defamation lawsuit that his client, writer E. Jean Carroll, had filed against him after that she accused him of sexually assaulting her.

“She’s not my type,” Trump said when asked if he raped Carroll in the mid-1990s in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York.

Then he shrugged, looked at Mrs. Kaplan, and pointed at her.

“To be honest, you wouldn’t be my choice either,” he said, according to a transcript of the deposition. “Under no circumstances would I have any interest in you. “I’m honest when I say it.”

She began another question, then paused and reminded him, “I’m a lawyer.”

That initial skirmish was part of a battle that began in 2019 when the lawsuit was filed; culminated in a Manhattan courtroom on Friday, when a jury of seven men and two women decided that Trump should pay Carroll $83.3 million for defaming her.

It was a clash between two New Yorkers, both formidable fighters and conversationalists, but in different ways and from different worlds.

Trump, 77, has a libertine past, talent as a salesman and an extraordinary instinct for insults. Mrs. Kaplan, 57 years old, an openly gay lawyer who married his wife in Toronto in 2005He is methodical and disciplined.

But both are shrewd and competitive power players in their respective fields, and unusually adept at using the press. They depend on their enormous confidence to achieve their goals, which makes their confrontations sometimes charged and tinged with drama.

He has represented large corporations and won the groundbreaking 2013 Supreme Court case that granted same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time. She has said that, as a lawyer, “I really am like a dog with a bone.” – never let go once your teeth are engaged.

In the five-hour statement at Mar-a-Lago, Trump called her “a political agent,” “a disgrace.” When she asked if she had been referring to Ms. Carroll when she said in June 2019 that people who make false accusations of rape should “pay dearly,” she said yes, with a slight smile.

“And I think his lawyers do too,” Trump responded. “I think lawyers like you are a big part of this, because you know it’s a bogus case.”

Mrs. Kaplan did not respond.

In the months that followed, Trump and Kaplan hurled accusations at each other, primarily through court documents, public statements and media appearances. The trial, which began Jan. 16 in Manhattan, was a chance to see them both in a packed federal courtroom.

And it provided a preview of what this unusual year in politics and history will present to the American public. As a former president and current candidate in the 2024 election, Trump faces four criminal cases, many of them lengthy and unpredictable, which he is using as a stage for his comeback bid.

That makes lawyers, judges and prosecutors – people like Fani Willis, Georgia district attorney; Jack Smith, federal special prosecutor; and Tanya S. Chutkan, the judge who oversaw the trial for her role in the attack on the Capitol, more than just figures in legal proceedings. Instead, Trump elevates them as opponents and tries to turn them into caricatures to mobilize his most fervent supporters.

So far, Kaplan is the only lawyer to obtain not one, but two verdicts against Trump.

“This victory is due to Robbie Kaplan and his amazing team,” Carroll said in a statement Friday night.

Last May, another jury awarded Carroll more than $5 million, finding that Trump had sexually abused her and then defamed her by calling her a liar.

Before representing Carroll, Kaplan was best known for representing Edith Windsor, the gay rights activist whose challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act was one of two landmark cases that led the Supreme Court to grant federal recognition to same-sex married couples in 2013.

But most of Ms. Kaplan’s career has focused on corporate law. She spent years representing clients such as the Minnesota Vikings football team, JP Morgan Chase & Company and T-Mobile.

Kaplan, a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement, has also defended clients against accusations of sexual abuse. In 2020 she represented the Goldman Sachs Group. when the company was sued over allegations that the bank’s general counsel had covered up allegations of sexual misconduct against its litigation chief.

Mrs. Kaplan, a cleveland nativeShe has said she always knew she would be a lawyer: she was a natural talker, sometimes to the exasperation of her family. she once remembered Her grandmother used to say to her when she was young, “Robbie, you know I love you, but can you be quiet for three minutes?”

“And I said something like, ‘No, Grandma, I can’t.’ I just can’t help it. I love to talk,’” Ms. Kaplan said.

Mr. Trump can’t help but talk either. The son of a Jamaica Estates real estate developer, he polished his playboy image in the 1980s, becoming a fixture on nightclubs and tabloids. As a businessman, exaggerated his real estate achievements, taking his image as a tycoon to the national level thanks to reality shows. As president and candidate, he belittled his political opponents and demonized the media, much to the delight of his supporters. And when Carroll accused him of rape in 2019, he called her a liar for trying to sell her book.

At the end of the deposition in 2022, Trump sought to disparage Kaplan, dismissing her as a shill for the Democratic Party. He called her a friend of Andrew Cuomo, an apparent blow to her role in advising him when he was accused of sexual harassment during his tenure as governor of New York. Her entanglement led her to resign from Time’s Up, an organization founded to fight sexual abuse and promote gender equality.

“I act appropriately around women,” Trump said confidently. “Let’s see how this all turns out.”

But during the trial, it appeared that Kaplan had gotten to Trump. He shook his head repeatedly in court and scoffed during his direct examination of Ms. Carroll. He watched placidly as the judge threatened to throw Trump out of the courtroom after one of his co-counsel, Shawn Crowley, complained that the former president was making derisive comments about Carroll within earshot of the jury.

He went on tirades at a press conference during the trial. She never raised her voice in court, but quickly showed clips of that news conference to the jury.

On Friday, during his closing argument, he had finally had enough.

Sitting a few feet from Kaplan, he shifted in his chair as she said the hate Carroll received was the inevitable result of Trump’s lies. He scoffed when Kaplan said Trump’s lawyers had the gall to suggest Carroll should be grateful for the attention.

And when Kaplan said Trump acted as if the rules and laws didn’t apply to him, Trump stood up and left the courtroom.

The display of temper left courtroom spectators staring in disbelief at the former president’s breach of decorum. The judge recorded that Trump had left.

But Kaplan continued his closure, focusing solely on the jury and ignoring the former foreman.

“No matter what Donald Trump thinks, and no matter what Donald Trump says, the rules apply to him,” he said.

Less than seven hours later, after the verdict was read to a packed courtroom, Carroll took Kaplan’s hands and they nodded to the jurors. After the jurors left, the two women hugged each other tightly.

Mr. Trump was not there. His motorcade was long gone before the jury returned with its verdict.

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