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E. Jean Carroll sounded ‘breathless’ and ’emotional’ in call after alleged rape, friend testifies

<i>Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images</i><br/>E. Jean Carroll on April 27
Getty Images
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
E. Jean Carroll on April 27

By Lauren del Valle, CNN

A friend of E. Jean Carroll testified Tuesday that the former magazine columnist called her within minutes after being allegedly raped by Donald Trump in a New York department store in 1996, as the rape and defamation trial against the former president continues.

Lisa Birnbach recounted how Carroll called her minutes after leaving the department store and told her about the incident in detail. Carroll, she said, sounded “breathless, hyperventilating, emotional. Her voice was all kinds of things” when she called.

“He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights,” Carroll repeated on the phone, according to Birnbach. “Like she couldn’t believe it. She was still processing what happened to her. It had just happened to her.”

Following the court’s adjournment, Trump’s lawyer confirmed to the judge that the former president will not appear to testify in his own defense.

On the stand Tuesday, Birnbach said she recalled she was feeding her young children in her kitchen at the time when Carroll called and walked out of the room to whisper “‘E. Jean he raped you. You should go to the police.'” Carroll described the incident with Trump as a fight, she didn’t want to hear the word “rape,” Birnbach said.

“It sounded like a physical fight she tried to get free from him and she did not want me to say that word,” Birnbach testified. Carroll refused to go to the police and made her friend promise never to speak of it again.

After the phone call that lasted just a few minutes, the two never spoke about it again until 2019, according to Birnbach. “It was her life, her story, not my story. She clearly didn’t want to tell anybody what happened and I honored that.”

She never checked in with Carroll about how she was holding up, Birnbach added. “Well because I had made a promise to her not to bring it up not to discuss it and certainly not tell anybody so I put it – I buried it and as life went on it was easier to not think about it.”

Carroll is suing Trump, alleging he raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s and then defamed her when he denied her claim, said she wasn’t his type and suggested she made up the story to boost sales of her book. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

After Birnbach publicly identified herself in 2019 as Carroll’s friend referenced in Carroll’s book, Birnbach said she gave a few media interviews to support Carroll. “Because I was telling the truth, because my friend was telling the truth and I felt strongly that I could be a supportive friend.”

Birnbach acknowledged that she doesn’t like Trump and has spoken out publicly against him at length on social media and on her podcast. On cross-examination, Trump’s attorney W. Perry Brandt read a long list of such posts.

Trump will not make court appearance

As both parties previewed that they could rest their respective cases by Thursday evening, Judge Lewis Kaplan asked Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina following the day’s proceedings whether his client would come to court to testify or otherwise. Trump is not required to attend the proceedings as a defendant in the civil trial.

Tacopina confirmed Trump will not make an appearance in the Manhattan federal courtroom, which is on par with earlier guidance from his legal team.

Tacopina indicated before the trial and again last week that it was unlikely the former president would come to court to participate in the civil trial. Trump, his attorney wrote in a filing ahead of the trial, “wishes” he could appear in court but his attendance should not be necessary because it would be a “burden” on the city and court.

Woman who says Trump groped her on airplane testifies

Jessica Leeds, a woman who has claimed Trump sexually assaulted her while sitting in first class on an airplane in the late 1970’s, also appeared Tuesday to testify.

Leeds, now 81, said she found herself seated next to Trump when a stewardess offered her an empty seat in first class. She was ticketed for a seat in coach at the time. When she sat down, the man seated next to the window introduced himself as Donald Trump. The two shook hands, Leeds testified.

After they ate the offered meal in first class, it was “all of a sudden” that Trump tried to kiss and grope her, Leeds said. “There was no conversation. It was like out of the blue.”

“It was like a tussle,” she said.

“He was trying to kiss me. He was trying to pull me toward him. He was grabbing my breasts. It was like he had 40 zillion hands. It was a tussling match between the two of us,” she said.

It was when Trump started to slide his hand up her skirt that she found a jolt of strength to fight to break free, Leeds testified. “I managed to wiggle out of my seat and went storming back to my seat in coach,” she said.

She doesn’t recall herself or Trump saying anything during the interaction, Leeds testified Tuesday.

She acknowledged she said in an interview with Anderson Cooper that it lasted about 15 minutes, but what she meant was it felt like it lasted that long.

No stewardess came to her rescue and no passengers tried to intervene on her behalf, she said. Leeds waited for the entire plane to empty before she disembarked to avoid another run-in with Trump. At the time of the incident, she said she didn’t think anyone would be interested in hearing what happened to her.

“Men could basically get away with a lot and that’s sort of where I put it,” she said.

She didn’t report the incident to anyone from the airline and never disclosed it to friends or family until Trump ran for president. Then she told everyone she could, Leeds said, because I thought he was not the kind of person we wanted as president.”

Trump has denied Leeds’ allegations.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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