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Former President Donald Trump leaves his apartment in New York, Jan. 17, 2024. Trump planned to attend the penalty phase of a New York defamation trial stemming from a writer’s claims he sexually attacked her in a store dressing room in the 1990s. (AP) Former President Donald Trump leaves his apartment in New York, Jan. 17, 2024. Trump planned to attend the penalty phase of a New York defamation trial stemming from a writer’s claims he sexually attacked her in a store dressing room in the 1990s. (AP)

Former President Donald Trump leaves his apartment in New York, Jan. 17, 2024. Trump planned to attend the penalty phase of a New York defamation trial stemming from a writer’s claims he sexually attacked her in a store dressing room in the 1990s. (AP)

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek January 25, 2024

Did judge ‘election interference’ delay Trump defamation trial? We rate that claim False.

If Your Time is short

  • A New York jury is being asked to decide what additional defamation damages, if any, former President Donald Trump should pay writer E. Jean Carroll for comments he made about her in 2019 while he was president.

  • On Jan. 22, a juror’s illness and COVID-19 exposures caused a trial delay. 

  • The judge did not immediately grant the Trump legal team’s request that the trial not resume Jan. 23, the day of the New Hampshire primary, but the court docket later said the trial would not resume on primary day. It resumed Jan. 25.

  • How does PolitiFact decide our ratings? Learn more here.

All eyes are on Republican front-runner and former President Donald Trump as the 2024 election nears and he fights several legal battles. Ahead of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary Jan. 23, some social media users argued that the judge in Trump’s New York-based defamation trial was engaging in "election interference." 

"ELECTION INTERFERENCE ALERT: The judge in E. Jean Carroll defamation trial just delayed todays trial until tomorrow — the day of the NH primary," read one Jan. 22 Instagram post

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Trump’s defamation damages trial was delayed because of a juror’s illness and COVID-19 exposures in the courtroom, not to interfere with the New Hampshire primary. The trial resumed Jan. 25, two days after the primary. 

E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuits against Trump

The trial is the culmination of writer E. Jean Carroll’s second civil lawsuit against Trump, whom she says assaulted her in a department store dressing room in 1996 and then publicly defamed her by claiming she was dishonest about the incident. 

In May 2023, a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll decades earlier — and for defaming her when he denied her allegations and said she was lying in an October 2022 Truth Social post. That jury awarded Carroll about $5 million — a little more than $2 million for the sexual abuse and about $3 million in damages for the defamation, The New York Times reported. Trump is appealing the decision.

But in a September summary judgment, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan — who also oversaw the 2023 trial — ruled that the jury’s May verdict proved that previous 2019 comments Trump made alleging that Carroll was lying were false. As a result, the current jury is being asked to decide what additional damages, if any, Trump should pay Carroll for defaming her in 2019 while he was president. 

The trial began Jan. 16. Trump has attended sporadically, bouncing between the courtroom, his mother-in-law’s funeral and campaign appearances. 

Initially, it was possible Trump would take the stand Jan. 22 in his own defense, but an unexpected delay shifted the trial timeline and sparked misleading online claims. 

Trial delayed because of illness, not "election interference"

On Jan. 22, a juror’s illness forced a delay of Trump’s expected testimony, according to news reports. It was unclear when the trial would resume, as the court awaited the results of COVID-19 tests for all the jurors, The Associated Press reported

That same day, Trump’s lead attorney, Alina Habba, reported a recent COVID-19 exposure, after which she ran a fever. Although she and her law partner tested negative for COVID-19 that morning, Habba said Jan. 22 that she didn’t have a problem "with a short delay for a day" so everyone could get tested.

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Habba asked that the trial, and therefore Trump’s testimony, be delayed until Wednesday because of the New Hampshire primary. Judge Kaplan did not rule immediately, telling her, "Circumstances may result in you getting what you ask for, and maybe not," The Associated Press reported.

A Jan. 22 court docket entry said the trial would be delayed until after the New Hampshire primary, but it did not specify a reason for the delay.

"Trial day ended early and trial continued to Wednesday, 1/24/2024 @ 9:30 AM," read the docket entry. "Trial will not be held on Tuesday, 1/23/2024."

Then, on New Hampshire’s primary day, Jan. 23, the docket was updated again to say the trial would not be held Jan. 24. 

Republican presidential front-runner and former President Donald Trump speaks Jan. 23, 2024, at a primary election night party in Nashua, N.H. (AP)

Trump won the primary and gave a victory speech in New Hampshire that evening. We found no evidence that the trial delay was an attempt to interfere with the primary, nor that the delay kept Trump from New Hampshire on Election Day.

The trial resumed Jan. 25, with Trump expected to take the stand

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that the judge in Trump’s defamation trial engaged in "election interference" by delaying the trial to Jan. 23, New Hampshire’s primary day. 

On Jan. 22, a juror’s illness and a separate COVID-19 exposure caused a trial delay. The trial resumed Jan. 25, two days after the New Hampshire primary. Trump’s lawyer did not oppose the delay, and we found nothing to suggest the delay was meant to interfere with the primary.

We rate these claims False. 

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

RELATED: After New Hampshire primary win, Donald Trump misleads on Democrats voting, immigration, border wall

Our Sources

Instagram post, Jan. 22, 2024 

The Associated Press, Delay of Trump defamation trial due to illness, not election interference, Jan. 23, 2024

NBC News, Trump expected to testify as E. Jean Carroll damages trial resumes after Covid delay, Jan. 25. 2024

The New York Times, Trump’s Defamation Trial Delayed Until Thursday, Jan. 23, 2024

Reuters, Trump's defamation hurt my status, writer E. Jean Carroll testifies, Jan. 18, 2024

The Associated Press, Judge threatens to boot Donald Trump from courtroom over loud talking as E. Jean Carroll testifies, Jan. 17, 2024

NBC News, Trump damages trial gets underway in E. Jean Carroll defamation case with former president in courtroom, Jan. 16, 2024

The Associated Press, Jury finds Trump liable for sexual abuse, awards accuser $5M, May 9, 2023

The Guardian, E Jean Carroll defamation trial against Trump resumes after Covid delay, Jan. 25, 2024

The New York Times, Why Donald Trump Is Facing E. Jean Carroll in Court a Second Time, Jan. 18, 2024

The Washington Post, Second E. Jean Carroll trial against Trump begins in New York, Jan. 16, 2024

The Washington Post, Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll wins liability claims in next civil case, Sept. 6, 2023

The New York Times, Trump Rape Lawsuit: Jury Finds Trump Liable for Sexual Abuse and Defamation, May 9, 2023

Reuters, Trump sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll, must pay her $5 million, jury says, May 9, 2023

NBC News, Trump looms over E. Jean Carroll defamation trial even in absence, Jan. 18, 2024

The Associated Press, Possible Trump testimony in sex abuse defamation trial postponed due to juror illness, Jan. 22, 2024

Court Listener, Carroll v. Trump (1:20-cv-07311), accessed Jan. 25, 2024

The Daily Beast, Delay in Trump’s Rape Defamation Trial Means No Verdict Until After NH Primary, Jan. 22, 2024

The Associated Press, Donald Trump’s lawyers begin his defense in the E. Jean Carroll defamation suit, Jan. 25, 2024

Bloomberg, Trump Defamation Trial Delayed Again Amid Jury Covid Worries, Jan. 23, 2024

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Did judge ‘election interference’ delay Trump defamation trial? We rate that claim False.

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