On the eve of former President Donald Trump’s rape trial in New York, attorneys for alleged victim E. Jean Carroll are trying to keep one thing secret: Who’s paying for the lawsuit.
Court papers revealed last week that bankrolling Carroll’s legal team is LinkedIn co-founder—and Democratic megadonor—Reid Hoffman.
While Carroll initially testified behind closed doors that no one was paying her top-notch New York City lawyers, those attorneys only recently told Trump’s team the truth: it’s the Silicon Valley billionaire who’s paying the bills. A federal judge promptly allowed Trump’s lawyers to grill Carrol again on Thursday, when she apparently revealed more details about the payment arrangement.
But on Friday, Carroll’s lawyer formally asked the judge to keep details about who’s paying for the lawsuit under wraps because “the interest in public access here is minimal.”
Carroll accuses Trump of raping her in the changing room of a luxury department store some 35 years ago. Her attorney, Roberta Kaplan, argued that jurors have no business knowing who’s financially supporting the lawsuit, citing court precedent that says the circumstances of who’s paying the legal bills “has nothing directly to do with the ultimate merits” of a case.
Kaplan wrote that the details that have already come out “afford the public meaningful access to information about this otherwise irrelevant and tangential topic.”
But Kaplan also expressed deep concern that exposing these details just days before the trial, which is set to start on Tuesday, could cause irreparable damage—to Carroll.
“Evidence that is inadmissible at trial should not be unnecessarily entered into the public record just before this highly watched trial is to begin,” she wrote, warning that it could cause “unfair prejudice and confusion.”
The former president’s legal defense team, Alina Habba and Joe Tacopina, were the ones who initially surfaced the issue in court papers last week, and they’re expected to oppose the effort to keep who’s paying the bills a secret.