Judge Merchan says Manhattan DA can cross-examine Trump about Carroll, fraud decisions

April 22, 2024

A New York judge said on Monday, April 22, that Manhattan prosecutors can bring up several civil lawsuits involving former President Donald Trump, if he chooses to testify in his ongoing criminal trial, reports The Hill.

After hearing arguments last Friday, Judge Juan Merchan ruled that prosecutors can cross-examine Trump about six of the 13 prior court determinations they requested to raise in their efforts to impugn the former president’s credibility in front of jurors.

Merchan ruled that prosecutors are permitted to question Trump about two rulings—one by a judge, the other by a jury—finding that Trump defamed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll by denying her claims of sexual assault.

The judge said prosecutors also can raise the decision in Trump’s civil fraud trial finding that he fraudulently manipulated property values as well as rulings finding that Trump violated the gag order in that case. Trump can also face questioning about a 2018 ruling in a lawsuit against his foundation.

But Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) cannot bring up sanctions imposed against Trump in a lawsuit he filed against Hillary Clinton in Florida, the judge ruled, as well as several other “bad acts” prosecutors desired to cross-examine Trump about. 

Merchan’s ruling is designed to give Trump’s legal team an informed view as it mulls whether the former president should take the stand in his defense.

Trump has repeatedly said he will testify, but it would mark a rare step for a criminal defendant. He is not required to take the stand, and jurors are not permitted to hold it against the former president if he does not mount a defense.

At Friday’s arguments, Trump attorney Emil Bove contended that raising Carroll’s case, in particular, would be too “salacious” and urged the judge against allowing prosecutors to mention it. It “pushes the salaciousness onto another level. This is a case about documents,” Bove said.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Colangelo countered that the defamation verdict included a finding that Trump’s denials of Carroll’s sexual assault claims were “false and published with actual malice,” saying it is relevant as they attempt to damage Trump’s credibility on the stand.

In mentioning Trump’s civil fraud case—in which the judge found he conspired to alter his net worth for tax and insurance benefits—prosecutors similarly say they intend to note that the judge in that case determined Trump “repeatedly and persistently” falsified business records, issued false financial statements, and conspired to commit insurance fraud.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in his New York criminal case, which revolves around a hush money deal made with an adult film actress ahead of the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty. Opening statements began on Monday.

Research contact: @thehill