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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Ordered To Pay $83.3M In Defamation Trial; Jury Says Trump Must Pay $83.3M In Damages To E. Jean Carroll. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 26, 2024 - 17:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, the first one being that he was liable for sexual abuse and he says he will be appealing this whole thing. He says that it's a Biden directed witch hunt. Obviously it's not. He says, quote, our legal system is out of control and being used as a political weapon.

They have taken away all my First Amendment rights. This is not America.

Jake, of course, I should note, as we were saying earlier, Trump did not have to be in court this week and the judge here, Judge Kaplan, ran a really no nonsense courtroom, not allowing Trump to go off -- out of, you know, what was being decided here, which was really just how much if anything he owed her. He was still denying the heart of these allegations. And the point that E. Jean Carroll's attorney made yesterday as he was being cross examined just for those brief few minutes was that there was another trial in this and Trump did not show up to that trial. He did not testify, he did not even go to the courtroom, which he has since said it was because his attorneys advised him to do so. But her attorney was essentially making the point that he could have come for that trial.

And of course, now we are seeing how this has ended up. No surprise that he's going to appeal this, Jake. But obviously, also revealing of just how angry he is about how much he has now, unless that appeal works, going to have to potentially pay E. Jean Carroll.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. And once again, Donald Trump's reaction, including two lines, one that Biden -- President Biden had anything to do with this E. Jean Carroll defamation suit, he did not. And there's zero evidence of that. And second of all, that this has anything to do with First Amendment rights, the First Amendment is an important amendment into the -- to the U.S. Constitution that allows for more free speech in this country than almost any other country on Earth. But it is not an unlimited freedom, you're not allowed to say anything you want about anybody publicly among other limits on that.

The breaking news right here on the lead the verdict, ordering Donald Trump to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages after defaming her a second time, this after being found liable last year of having sexually abused her. Let's take through the damages today that the jury is awarding to E. Jean Carroll. For compensatory damages, the jury awarded $7.3 million for the emotional injury he caused her, $11 million in the injury he did to her reputation, reputational repair is what they call it, that's $18.3 million right there. And punitive damages, this is to punish the offender, $65 million.

So, added up at $83.3 million the jury has awarded to E Jean Carroll, whether or not that stands and remains after Donald Trump appeals it is a no doubt he will. We'll see. But let's go back to CNN's Kara Scannell who's outside the court in Manhattan.

Kara, for those who just tuning in at the top of 05:00 p.m. Eastern here in Washington, D.C. and where you are in Manhattan, recap what happened inside the courtroom when the verdict was read, if you would.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. I mean, this came right down to the end of the day, the judge told the jury they would be deliberating till 04:30 today, they started just after just about 01:40 p.m. So really just under three hours. We weren't sure if there was a verdict or not. And then it became clear that there was.

So that -- we knew that there was a verdict. They start to assemble the attorneys. Carroll's lawyers are in there first. Then Trump's lawyers come in. And Trump's lead attorney, Alina Habba hug one of Carroll's top attorneys, and then they were sitting in waiting for the verdict.

Now, one of the foreperson of the jury hands it up to the clerk and the judge then read the verdict from the bench. And as you described, a significant amount of money. E. Carroll's team was asking for more than $24 million in compensatory damages and a significant amount of money in punitive damages because they argued to the jury the only way to stop Donald Trump from repeating the defamatory statements was to hit him in the pocketbook. And that is what the jury did today, awarding E. Jean Carroll at $83.3 million.

Now, from here, the judge will enter a judgment. He said that would be in a few days from now, whether he agrees with this number or challenges that in some way. So that will come down the road. But for now, this is the jury speaking, awarding E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million. Now she had just left a few moments ago, you know surrounded by cameras, her lawyers beaming with smiles walking to their car.

They didn't give any comments to the media as they were leaving. This was a significant victory for them. Last year, the jury awarded Carroll $5 million after she prevailed on her claims of sexual assault and defamation. This award much more significant, a significant amount of money. And of course, as you said the former president is calling this absolutely ridiculous.

He left the courthouse at 04:00, so about a half hour before this verdict was returned. He was not in the room for the reading of this verdict. And he had been in the courtroom from most of this short trial. He testified on the stand yesterday for less than three minutes but he was there, he made his points and he tussled with the judge at numerous times.

[17:05:11] I mean, earlier today in closing arguments actually got up in the middle of Carroll's closing argument and left the courtroom. And that was as her lawyer was arguing to the jury that the only way to send a message to Donald Trump to make him stop because he wasn't agreeing with the other jury's verdict, he was continuing to defame her, within 24 hours of that verdict and up until this trial, and as they said, even while he was on the witness stand was to send a message with money. And that is what this jury did, a significant award much more than Carroll had asked for, $83.3 million, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Let's bring in CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig now.

Elie, you've had a few minutes now to process the verdict. What happens if Donald Trump continues to go after E. Jean Carroll in the way he has? And actually before I get to that, let me ask you another question. The reason that he has been found liable for these different defamatory statements is because he has been really calling her crazy. He has been saying a whole bunch of like, clearly pejorative things about her.

If Donald Trump said simply, these charges are not true, would that be defamatory?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF N.Y.: It would be a much more difficult defamation case to make because a person does have a right to deny claims. I think where Donald Trump went beyond the line here is when he didn't just say I deny that, he called her a liar over and over. He said wildly offensive things. He said she's, and I quote Donald Trump here, "not my type." He questioned her mental acuity.

I mean, he went way beyond that. So if he just kept it to a sort of a straightforward denial, I think it would have been much more difficult to sue here.

And, Jake, as to your other question, what happens if and probably realistically, when Donald Trump continues to defame E. Jean Carroll? The answer is, theoretically, she can continue to sue him. Now, I don't know that anybody, including E. Jean Carroll wants a third lawsuit here. But it's important to remember the statements that Donald Trump made during this case, before this case, all of that came into the jury. And if this goes up on appeal, and I'm sure Donald Trump will appeal, he said he will, he has the right to do that, then an appeals court can look at that when they're deciding, well, was he properly punished here with the punitive damages?

Well, if he's continuing to defame her up to and through the appeal, that's something that can be taken into account as well. So, that's really the only recourse that E. Jean Carroll would have here but who knows if $80 million will teach Donald Trump a lesson or not.

TAPPER: So just two notes on what Donald Trump said, and I know you were just quoting him when he claimed she's not my type, first of all, obviously --

HONIG: Right.

TAPPER: -- sexual assault, it's not about attraction or types. It's about abusive behavior and power. But beyond that, one of the weaknesses in Donald Trump's defense, if you can call it that during the first trial was, while he didn't testify, he didn't sit for a deposition. And during that deposition, he was shown a picture of E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s when this event happened, and he thought that it was a picture of his wife at the time Marla Maples. So in terms of the, not my type thing --

HONIG: Right.

TAPPER: -- again, irrelevant to rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse. But beyond that, he thought he actually mistook the plaintiff in this case for the woman that he cheated on his first wife with and became his second wife, which I imagine when the jury saw that, at the time, must have had some sort of impact.

HONIG: It had to have, Jake. And remember, in this case, that's just concluded this trial, they saw that excerpt of Donald Trump's deposition. So, not only is he sort of going out of his way to disparage E. Jean Carroll in every possible respect, including, as you properly know, respects are really irrelevant here, but he's lying about the way he disparages them. It's almost dizzying, I think, for this jury to try to keep track of Donald Trump's lies layered upon lies upon lies. And to see a punitive damages verdict of this magnitude, this many times greater than the actual compensatory damages is really, really rare.

And I think the jury intended to send a message here. I think that's -- we know that's what E. Jean Carroll's lawyers ask them to do. And I don't see any other way to interpret this.

Jake, the other thing is, Donald Trump's conduct throughout this trial that just concluded was abhorrent. It was -- I've never heard or seen of any party lawyer in any criminal or civil case, acting anything like this, speaking up, storming out, grumbling things that the jury can hear, and the jury is absolutely entitled to take that into effect in deciding does he need to be punished? Does a message need to be sent?

TAPPER: I want to bring back former Trump Attorney Jim Trusty.


Jim, a couple a couple of questions here for you. First of all, as I recall the first case there were some weaknesses in E. Jean Carroll's testimony, she didn't remember the exact moment when this happened, in fact. I don't even -- I think she was unclear on whether it was 1996 or 1997. I'm not saying I don't believe her, I'm not taking a position one way or the other, but there were weaknesses. What if Donald Trump had been contrite, had testified, had said, she's mistaken, this did not happen, you know?

And instead of insulting her, instead of attacking her, what if that had happened? Would there not have been a chance that maybe he would have actually been victorious in the first case?

JIM TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I mean, by definition, you can always say that. So yes, but I take that with a grain of salt. You know, and I think that you touched on something that is of concern to me, which is really just kind of a broader context issue. You know, when New York decided to lift the statute of limitations for sex assault or sexual -- or rape type claims, you know, that was a -- that was kind of a nod to the fact that for many, many years, particularly as we get back to the 50s, and 60s, women have been revictimized by going through the process of describing sexual assault. And so, I -- there's this tension that starts with the desire to not limit the ability of women, in particular, to come forward and complain about mistreatment, and I get that.

But the flip side is they lift the statute of limitations, which is a protection of the defendant. It's not some sort of award to the defendant for outlasting justice, it's being able to effectively represent and defend them. And so imagine if you've got a plaintiff who says, I'm not really sure which year it is, well, you're certainly not going to have an alibi because the person can't even tell you, you know, the day, the week, the month of the year. And that's the tension that's going to stick with me. I'm not sure it'll get a lot of traction on appeal, because the legislature made a decision, the courts typically are going to bow to the legislative decision on something like statute limitations.

But that's a real tension here, which is the difficulty of representing anyone. Strip away the personalities for a minute, when they're being told, you did something wrong, some unmount (ph), you know, some unknown years ago, and you're have to patch together a factual defense to that. I think it makes -- it makes it hard to testify to go back to your initial question when you're not even really sure what you're denying except the general fact of contact with this person. So, that's something I'm kind of left with and I'm struggling with, which is the idea of, you know, how much do we push to create new rules like limiting or eliminating the statute of limitations? And what's the impact on these civil cases when it comes to people that get dragged into court so many years later.

TAPPER: All interesting food for thought. Thank you so much, Jim.

We are waiting to see if Donald Trump's attorneys come out and speak to the cameras. We see a bunch of people carrying legal boxes there, it looks like. I don't know who they are or what those boxes are. There's - that's a big courthouse, a lot of stuff going on inside.

I want to bring in CNN Anchor and Chief Legal Analyst, Laura Coates.

Laura, the question I just asked Jim Trusty about like, what if Donald Trump had behaved differently, had taken the original charges at face value, the original accusations at face value treated the court and the plaintiff with respect as opposed to defamation and insults? The way I look at is if I get pulled over by a car for speeding, the odds that I have a favorable response increase if I am polite and act like a nice normal human being, as opposed to if I am belligerent and rude. And I kind of -- I kind of perceive policemen, like I would precede any officer of the court. Am I wrong?

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, for many people, that is in fact the consequence. For some others, it is not. But the end of the end of the day, yes, had he behaved like a defendant who took the case seriously, we would not be here.

TAPPER: Here's Alina Habba.

COATES: There would not have been subsequent statement that would made.

TAPPER: Laura, I apologize. We just want to see if Donald Trump's attorney says anything.

ALINA HABBA, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: No, no. I'm glad you asked me that question. No, I'm not having any second thoughts about representing President Trump. It is the proudest thing I could ever do.

What I'm having second thoughts about is the license that I stand here with, that the people in there supposed to have. I have not spoken, because I respect my ethics while I'm on trial. But let me now speak about what has happened. I have sat on trial after trial for months in this state, the state of New York, Attorney General Letitia James and now this, weeks, weeks why because President Trump is leading in the polls and now we see what you get in New York.


So don't get it twisted whoever asked me that question. I am so proud to stand with President Trump. But I am not proud to stand with what I saw in that courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Habba, is the former president --

HABBA: I'm not finished. Let me just finish and I'll take questions, please.

Before I walked into court, that judge decided that every single defense President Trump had we were not allowed to raise in front of the jury. It is in writing. And I encourage the journalists, the real journalists, to take the minute to look at his orders. There was no proof. And I couldn't prove that she didn't bring in the dress.

There was no DNA. There was no expert. My experts were denied, two of them, two of them were denied to come in. They didn't bring -- let me bring up that Reid Hoffman funded Ms. Kaplan. And you know what we got in there, that my witness who was her friend who said that she is a drug addict and the drug addict is herself.

That friend I found out in there was paid for by Ms. Kaplan's firm, and that is disgusting. That is a violation of everything I stand for. And that is why I stand with Trump. And that is why so many Americans are so proud that he is running again and so excited to run to the ballot box. But don't get it twisted. We are seeing a violation of our justice system. Ladies and gentlemen, you are not allowed to be stripped of every defense that you have. You are not allowed --

TAPPER: All right. So, you're getting an idea now about why Donald Trump's attorney is perceived as effective as she is, which is not particularly effective. Laura Coates, if you could truth squat a little bit of this. Alina Habba was saying that Donald Trump --


TAPPER: -- was not allowed to introduce defenses. What is she talking about?

COATES: She's talking about nonsense. And she's trying to rewrite history. And I honestly would not be surprised if she herself is now vulnerable to accusations that she has made, defamatory statements of some kind without proof to the contrary. But let me tell you, he did have an opportunity, Jake. This was the damages phase of a trial that he could have attended last year.

His presence was voluntary in the sense of whether he was required to actually sit in the trial. But his defense was not voluntary. He had every opportunity, essentially, to put forth evidence to put up a defense to testify himself to do all the things that she spoke of on that courthouse step just now. They made a decision that was different from that. Now you had the penalty phase of a trial and the judge specifically told them here are the parameters.

We're not really litigating this issue, a jury has already decided the issue that you could have participated fully in. And for that reason, you are limited in trying to have a second bite at the apple, even in the big apple. That was the clear directive from the judge. And so to suggest somehow that it is New York or the jury system or somehow something nefarious was going on that muzzled the defense in the way that they chose to actually defend the case is truly ludicrous. But you know this is really par for the course in terms of why what you saw on the courthouse steps has been additive for a campaign, even if it is destructive inside of a courtroom.

But make no mistake America, the only role of this particular defense counsel during this phase of the trial was about the damages, not whether a sexual assault had occurred, not the decisions of whether there was discredited, those were issues of fact, as we call them, meaning the fact finder, the jury whose job it is to determine the credibility of witnesses before them to assess the evidence, to follow the instructions at the judge, they made a determination. They would like a different conclusion. But that is not injustice defined.

TAPPER: Thank you so much, Laura.

I want to bring back Jim Trusty. And while we switch, I just want to note that some of the other utterances from Attorney Alina Habba include she said that they will appeal. She said Donald Trump is not afraid of anything. And then she walked away. And for anybody wondering especially to my Philly peeps out there, she went to whitener University Law School in Chester, Pennsylvania. Just if anybody was out there wondering.

Jim Trusty, is that a good representation do you think?

TRUSTY: Yes, I mean, I'm in a kind of a unique situation from having represented the president before. I made a conscious decision not to weigh in about the performance of other lawyers. I will agree with Laura on -- Laura Coates on one main point there, which is, you know, unfortunately no matter how strongly the client feels this was not liability part two, this was a damages trial.


And I don't know the nooks and crannies of what experts she had proposed and what got excluded and whether it related to something more in the damages lane than the liability. I think anyone picking up the damages part of this case would probably look back a little and say, this is frustrating, maybe this wasn't such a great moment of justice, that he was found liable. But it's legally irrelevant at the time that you get into court.

Now, her credibility is still an issue. And that might be the avenue to kind of revisit things, but it's got to be subtle. And when you take a sledgehammer to the idea of, you know, this is wrong, I'm innocent, you know, she's crazy, it does run the risk of alienating a jury to the tune of punitive. You know, the compensatory here is not anything that's particularly outrageous. I mean, you know, I would like to have 18 million that suddenly came my way.

But the bottom line is that's not a gigantic number. And, Jake, I give you credit a couple hours ago, I think it was you that had a hypothetical 80 million on the table, and here we are.

TAPPER: I did.

TRUSTY: So, the punitive's are really the story here. That does show more of an alienation towards President Trump and his position than it does a sympathy to E. Jean Carroll. And again, this jury wasn't charged with assessing liability. And I think the judge made it very clear at every opportunity it got to tell them, you know, you have to accept that as bedrock facts. So, it's a very different kind of trial than what I think a lot of people from the outside might expect.

TAPPER: Yes. Jim, stay right there.

The breaking news for those tuning in, a verdict awarding E. Jean Carroll at $83.3 million in damages in her civil defamation case against Donald Trump. His defense attorney says he plans to appeal today's decision. We're going to have more reaction next, including the impact on the race for the White House, 2024. Stay with us.


[17:25:54] TAPPER: We're back with the big breaking news and more on the verdict in the E. Jean Carroll case, a jury awarding Carroll at $83.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages. You heard that correctly, $83.3 million. Let's bring in CNN's Kristen Holmes and CNN's Laura Coates.

Kristen, gaming out for me, how do you think Donald Trump's going to react on the campaign trail?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've already been told by allies that he's absolutely livid with this, but they -- but he continues to paint himself as a victim saying that it is unfair. But the other part of this that he's currently on his way to Nevada, where he has a political rally tomorrow, that is the next caucus state, so we're likely to hear about it from him.

The other thing to point out here is one of the things that we've repeatedly heard him say, and I've now started to hear this from advisors as well, is that they are going to argue that this is completely unfair given where it happened in New York. You heard Alina Habba saying that as well, that this jury was never going to be fair to him. So look for that.

Now, again, in his reaction, he talked about how this was linked to Joe Biden, there's absolutely no evidence at all that that is true. This is just the path that Trump goes down. And the thing to note is that it actually works with his supporters. He continues to link this -- every legal case to political witch hunt election interference, and it starts to make his supporters believe that it is true, even if they have no link to each other or to Joe Biden. So, this is something that he has started doing months ago and is continuing to do now.

TAPPER: Laura Coates, correct me if I'm wrong, the reason this took place in New York is because the assault on E. Jean Carroll started --


TAPPER: -- in New York. That was in 1996 or whatever it was. It was -- that was at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan, hence, a Manhattan jury, right?

COATES: It was the appropriate jurisdiction for where the crime was alleged to have occurred. He will make a similar argument, of course, in Washington D.C., about a D.C. jury based on the voting practices, the demographics in the area. But this is such a significant case for so many reasons, not the least of which is this is a civil trial where the penalty phase has now been completed and the punitive damages are not so egregiously exponentially higher than the actual compensatory damages. So the idea of trying to have to post such bond for this and be able to pay some portion of it as an indication of good faith for the rest of it, it will protect the plaintiff in this action in terms of what money she'll be able to recoup and also are actually earn and claim here. And then of course, you've got what would be the appellate basis here, if there's not a violation of the rule of law or a legal fault from the judge, which is a very respected one, if the fact portions already been decided he has a pretty uphill battle.

And the notion that a jury was unfair simply because they were in the right venue is not going to hold a lot of water.

TAPPER: We're going to continue to monitor reaction to this breaking news, $83 million $83.3 really, if you want to get technical against Donald Trump awarded to E. Jean Carroll. We're going to get reaction from the National co-chair of the Biden campaign. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news. A jury, this afternoon, awarded E. Jean Carroll, the writer who accused Donald Trump of sexual abuse and a jury found for her, awarded her $83.3 million for Donald Trump's defamatory statements against her when he was president. We're going to try to get some reaction now from the Biden campaign. We, of course, are reaching out to the Trump campaign as well.

Let's bring in Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He is the Biden campaign co-chair. Senator, you're also a lawyer. Were you the Attorney General of Delaware? I think if that feels right, but maybe I'm wrong. No, no, sorry.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-De): No, I was not. I was county executive but I'm a member of the Delaware Bar and I serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TAPPER: All right. Well, there's your legal bonafides. A jury said that the former president and likely Republican presidential nominee must pay 83.3 millions of dollars in damages. Obviously, he is going to appeal that, although I'm not sure what grounds you would have for anything to be reversed. What's your reaction?

COONS: Well, Jake, what's particularly striking about this verdict today, a verdict rendered by a jury of his peers in New York City, was that $65 million of it is punitive damages. When a jury is considering damages, they look first at compensatory damages at righting the wrongs that was done. But punitive damages are a way for a jury to signal that they think the defendants conduct was outrageous to deter future misconduct. And the way that former President Trump approached this case from the very beginning, suggests that he is someone who is always on offense, who never takes any quarter, who learned nothing from the May 2023 verdict that found him guilty for raping Ms. Carroll, for assault, and imposed a $5 million jury award at that point, that he had another six months to contemplate what might be the outcome of this case.


And only continue to attack and defame her, and as a result is going to pay record damages. It tells you something about his character and his conduct. I'll remind you last, Jake, this is somebody who thinks presidents should have immunity to allow them to do whatever they want while their president, strikes me as a really bad idea.

TAPPER: So I don't want to -- just to quickly fact check one thing you said, the definition of rape in New York is a particularly narrow one. And without getting too graphic, a hand cannot be judged as being part of a rape. So he was not technically found guilty of raping her. He was found guilty of sexual abuse.

COONS: Understood, yes.

TAPPER: So in any case, over the course of the campaign is a political manner. We have seen how legal cases against Donald Trump boost his support. Ron DeSantis, before he dropped out, expressed dismay, that all the court cases happened to -- he seemed to be suggesting that maybe he would have had more traction if the Republican body politic weren't -- hadn't rallied around him because of all these cases.

Are you at all concerned that that might have a similar effect with independent voters or people who are trying to decide between Trump and Biden? They might see this as all unfair.

COONS: Well, Jake, that is certainly what seems to be the response of the deep believers, the true core MAGA crowd that they buy what Donald Trump is selling, that this is all just a witch hunt. And somehow, in going after him for his misconduct, they're really going after his core supporters.

But the results of the recent New Hampshire primary suggests that there's a lot of Independents and persuadable Republicans who prefer Nikki Haley over Donald Trump for exactly this sort of reason, and who an exit poll said that if Trump is convicted in a court of law on any of the many charges that he faces, that that will contribute to this critical persuadable group, concluding that he's unfit to serve as president.

TAPPER: Right. And we should note that that's regarding criminal cases. This is a civil matter, which is no less serious, but doesn't have a penalty that might include prison. What is your reaction? I mean, immediately out of the box, Donald Trump, and we noted it was false. There's literally no evidence of it. But he was blaming this on, not just being a witch hunt, but a Biden directed witch hunt.

COONS: Of course, President Biden has literally nothing to do with this case. It is all about former President Trump's misconduct, his assault, and then his defaming of Ms. Carroll, both at the time and as president. So to say that this is in any way directed by President Biden is just another round of misdirection and constant attack by the former president.

If you think about the week that these two leaders have had, President Biden got great economic news, was endorsed by the UAW, one of the biggest unions in America, went to a celebration of the concrete impact on the ground that is bipartisan infrastructure law is having in Duluth, and rebuilding an aging bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin. And former President Trump appeared in court and is now going to be compelled to pay a huge punitive damages award. I think their contrast in their conduct and their integrity, and their path forward could not be sharper.

TAPPER: Well, he did win the New Hampshire primary by a record --

COONS: He did win in New Hampshire.

TAPPER: -- number of votes and was the first person in the modern era to win both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, to contests that President Biden never won. So I don't know if that's entirely fair as a contrast.

COONS: I will agree with you, of course, that the facts are -- that both President Biden and former President Trump came out on top in the New Hampshire primary. But I was just contrasting what a rough day they've had in terms of economic news.

TAPPER: Certainly, certainly true in terms of economic news. 3.2% growth in the in the fourth quarter of 2023 as opposed to an $83.3 million verdict. It's kind of apples and oranges but I hear what you're saying. Democratic Senator Chris Coons, co-chair of the Biden 2024 campaign, coming to us it looks like from Wilmington, Delaware. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

What will the political fallout of today's verdict be for Donald Trump? More reaction next.



TAPPER: We're continuing to follow our breaking news on this Friday evening. The verdict ordering Donald Trump to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages, you heard that right, $83.3 million of damages after defaming her while he was president in 2019. This after being found liable last year of sexual abuse and defaming her after the presidency.

This all comes as Trump is in the middle of his campaign for president, which is actually going swimmingly for him, coming off two big victories in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, a feat that has never been done in the modern political world.

I want to bring in CNN political director David Chalian. And, David, we just saw Trump become the first non-incumbent presidential candidate ever to win both Iowa and New Hampshire --


TAPPER: -- on the Republican side. Do you think this will hurt his campaign at all?

CHALIAN: You know, it's hard to see how it does, Jake, because as you know what we got today, were these damages, the assessment here of how much money he's owed. But voters, as you were just saying, that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire in the caucuses in the primary, they were obviously aware that, you know, it's been nearly a year since he was found liable of sexual assault in this case.

[17:45:17] So the information here is not new. And I would just argue also, that we just saw in the New Hampshire exit polls that a majority of those participating in the Republican primary on Tuesday said that even if Donald Trump was convicted of a crime, he still fit for the presidency. Donald Trump won, you know, the vast majority, the 88% of the people that felt that way were voting for Donald Trump.

So this -- it's hard to see how these kinds of developments, I feel like you and I probably have had this kind of conversation and question throughout the '15 and '16 campaign, the four years of his presidency, and the three years since he left office, is this the thing that's going to harm him. It's hard to see. What it certainly does is that, he's ever present challenges ever since he took the Oval Office in 2017, with Independent voters, suburban college educated female voters. I don't see how in any way this helps him bring back some of those people to his fold that perhaps helped him win in 2016.

TAPPER: So Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was once Trump's communications director, she has since become a critic, and is one of our contributors. She tweeted or X, or whatever you call it now, 24 minutes ago, in response to the news of this $83.3 million award. She wrote, the wild thing, Republicans have an off ramp to nominate a conservative former two term governor and UN ambassador, who is wildly popular with Independents needed to win a general election, but they're going to stick with this guy. Is she wrong?

CHALIAN: You know, she's making that electability argument, the one that Nikki Haley has been making time and again. And thus far, in the first two contests, we don't see that that's a really resonant argument with Republican voters. It's not one of the top tier things that they're looking for as a quality and a candidate.

So it's a fine argument to make, but it's not one necessarily that's being met with approval by Republicans.

TAPPER: Yes. The electability argument was a big part of Joe Biden's pitch in 2020 and, I guess, effectively so. We just had on Biden's campaign co-chair, Senator Chris Coons from Delaware. What do you make of the reaction from the Biden campaign?

CHALIAN: Well, first of all, the fact that he's on talking to you about this, to me, is a different kind of posture from Biden world than we usually see on this. The fact that the Biden campaign co-chair is going on TV to talk to you to talk about these damages and rulings, that suggest to me they're in a new aggressive phase of making sure there's not a single bit of negative Trump news that comes out that they don't try to take advantage of.

TAPPER: Probably wise, because what they've been doing until now does not seem to be working, at least according to polls.

CHALIAN: Yes -- no. This is sizing up to be a very competitive election that is likely to come down to tens of thousands of votes in a few battleground states.

TAPPER: CNN political director David Chalian, always good to see you. We're going to bring you new reaction to this verdict as it comes in.

We want to get to as well, a big story developing at the border. Coming up next, we're going to talk to a Republican governor coming to the defense of Governor Greg Abbott of Texas as his state defies an order from the US Supreme Court.



TAPPER: We're going to continue to follow this hour's major breaking news, a jury ordering Donald Trump to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages for defamation. That verdict in a trial that examined comments Trump made about Carroll when he was president back in 2019. We'll have much more to come on that story.

But also making big headlines today, a standoff between the US Border Patrol and Texas State officials which is intensifying. Texas Governor Greg Abbott continues to defy a five to four US Supreme Court ruling earlier this week, which ruled that the Biden administration has the legal authority to remove razor wire along the southern border. CNN's cameras captured Texas putting up more razor wire following that ruling.

And now 25 Republican governors from across the country have signed a joint statement supporting the Texas governor as he thumbed his nose at the highest court in the land writing, "Because the Biden administration has abdicated its constitutional compact duties to the states, Texas has every legal justification to protect the sovereignty of our states and our nation."

I spoke earlier today with one of those Republican governors. This was before the Trump verdict came down.

Let's bring in one of the co-signers to that letter, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. Governor, I guess the larger question here is whether elected officials should just ignore rulings from the US Supreme Court with which they disagree.

KEVIN STITT (R), OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR: Well, first off, it's a head scratcher for Americans when you can go in and cut razor wire on the southern border to allow illegal immigrants into our country. That's really the head scratcher and kind of what we're trying to enforce the law in Texas. Which I've been to the border myself, I've sent troops down there in support of Governor Abbott, that there's 28 ports of entry. Those -- it's already illegal to enter the country any other way besides these ports of entry.

So all we're saying is, go through the ports of entry. Nobody is against legal immigration and workforce. As a matter of fact, as governors we're promoting the V-1 visas to be controlled by the state so we know who our workforce is. But everybody knows we cannot allow people into the country illegally.

And so, that's all we're saying. And I think Americans are with us on the, and they just don't understand what's happened at the southern border. We need to have it secure.


TAPPER: Yes. I mean, let's just pause it for the sake of argument that I agree with everything you said. What Governor Abbott is doing, and what you and the other governors who have written this letter are supporting is defying the US Supreme Court. And I wonder if you have any concern that this opens the door for, let's say, Democratic governors to defy US Supreme Court decisions with which they disagree, let's say on gun rights. Because they think it's in the interest of public safety, even if the Supreme Court says what they want to do is unconstitutional.

STITT: Well, we all agree that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. And if the Supreme Court gets something wrong, for example, if they tried to ban and say that we didn't have a second amendment right to bear arms, I think the Constitution supersedes somebody in Washington DC telling us, you know.

And so, I think Governor Abbott did a really good job of laying out and declared an invasion based on Article I of the Constitution. The states have a right to defend themselves. The states created the federal government, the federal government did not create the states.

And the bigger picture here, though, Jake, is the American public is so tired of politicians, you know, doing something for political gain. The only explanation for the Biden administration to be cutting a razor wire, and letting people flood into our country illegally, is because they think politically, it's going to help them in the next election. That's the only explanation.

And Americans are tired of people focusing on that next election, instead of doing what's right for Americans. And so, 25 governors have signed an agreement with Governor Abbott that, listen, you have a right to enforce the law.

And back to the ports of entry, how can you argue with me that it's already illegal to enter, except for these ports of entry? Explain that to me. I think Americans need to deserve why would you let someone come through except through these ports of entry?

TAPPER: Well, I mean, the bottom line is when it comes to the interpretation of the US Constitution, it is the US Supreme Court that gets to make that final decision. But you said something interesting, that I want to pick up on because there is somebody from Oklahoma, who is trying to solve this crisis. Republican Senator James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma. He's been the lead negotiator in a bipartisan border security deal. And in fact, his compromise is somebody who's covered this now for decades, his compromise is more conservative than any previous senate negotiations that have come this far in the last 25 years.

But Donald Trump opposes the deal, and he's pretty blatant about it. He wants to use the border issue and the immigration issue to win an election in November, and that's why he opposes Senator Lankford's attempt to solve this problem. Do you stand with President Trump or do you stand with Senator Lankford on that?

STITT: Well, let's talk about President Trump. It's his policies that have this border secure. And I don't want your viewers to tune me off on this because when Trump was president, he had the Remain in Mexico Policy. So I don't think President Trump is against legal immigration, and H-1B visas and for states to know who's working in their state.

What he is against is catch and release. And so if you're going to have immigration to the US, you had to do it legally. But you stayed in Mexico until your court date. Well, Biden canceled that day one in office. And so now, it's just a catch and release. That's not constitutional.

If you want to talk about following the Constitution, let's make sure we make people follow the law. That's what we're trying to do here. And again, it's so disappointing that this ends up being political and you think Trump's trying to use it for the next election, and other side thinks that Biden is trying to use it. Let's just follow the law, right?

And that is make people come here legally. And if they're not legally coming to the port of entries, we're going to keep them out. But you have an administration that's cutting razor wire right now.

TAPPER: Yes. I'm not the one saying that Trump's trying to use it for the election. Republican senators are the ones saying that Trump doesn't want this compromise that Senator James Lankford from Oklahoma is working so hard on solving the problem, because Trump wants to use it.

But before you go, sir, I do have a question. We've been covering for a long time now the case of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip. This fall, the Supreme Court is going to hear his appeal about Glossip's request for a new trial. His appeal has the backing of your state's conservative Republican attorney general. Will you respect the court's decision if they decline to grant his appeal?

STITT: Yes, we will. We will. We will back that opinion.

TAPPER: All right. Governor Kevin Stitt from the great state of Oklahoma. Thank you, sir. Appreciate your time.

STITT: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: A big day of programming ahead this weekend. Sunday morning on "State of the Union," Democratic House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi from California and Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon here on CNN.


Then Sunday night, CNN takes a look at the many lives of Martha Stewart in original four part series. It kicks off Sunday night at nine o'clock Eastern only here on CNN. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, on the TikTok @JakeTapper, or you can follow the show on X at "The Lead CNN" if you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD. You can listen to the show once you get your podcast.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great weekend.