A Trump win makes the U.S. vulnerable to ‘loss of democracy risk,’ E. Jean Carroll’s attorney warns—starting with her client’s $83.3 million payout



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Star attorney Roberta Kaplan says “a lot of smart people in the world” are worried about potential loss of democracy if Donald Trump wins the presidential election in November.

Kaplan, who successfully represented Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll earlier this year, is also known for arguing for same-sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court. Fortune’s Emma Hinchliffe interviewed Kaplan and Carroll at a Most Powerful Women dinner in New York on May 14.

Another Trump presidency could threaten Carroll’s $83.3 million defamation payout, Kaplan said, adding that there would be far-reaching implications for the judicial system and economy.

Watch the full video interview above, or read below for a full transcript of the conversation.

Emma Hinchliffe: So it’s been almost four months since you won $83 million. It’s been just a few weeks since the judge denied his request for a new trial. So how are you feeling?

E. Jean Carroll: I feel fabulous. I feel very, very lucky to be here tonight. We’re all very lucky to be even on this earth. That we’re alive. We have one life. And I’m glad that I met Robbie Kaplan at the end of mine. I’m eighty–

Roberta A. Kaplan: It’s not the end! 

Carroll: But I’m overwhelmed every day, every day with happiness just for being alive and knowing this woman, swear to God. 

Hinchliffe: That’s beautiful. So of course, Trump has many other civil and criminal cases swirling around him. So far, you guys are the only ones who have successfully held into account in court twice. So what made your cases so strong?

Kaplan: Well, you just heard from her. What made our case so strong was the amazing, incredible, unbelievably courageous E. Jean Carroll, who had the guts to face him down twice–the second time eye-to-eye in person, and tell a story that no one thought anyone would believe until we got 18 different jurors who believed it unanimously, twice. That’s the reason. There’s a big difference in the world, in my view at least, between kind of what’s out there in the media, and what’s out there on social media and the internet, and what happens in a courtroom. It takes a long time in court. It’s really kind of a pain in the tush in a whole bunch of ways. But the rules that apply in a courtroom, the rules of evidence, and the juries and a judge who was amazing, Judge Kaplan, no relation, really, I think do an incredible job of bringing out the truth. And if only Donald Trump were on trial a few more times, God-willing, before he is up for President, I think you may see even different results than we’re seeing today. But that is the truth one out. And one out because we were in a courtroom with E. Jean.

Hinchliffe: Wow, Well, speaking of, obviously, Trump has been on trial over the past few weeks. What have you made of this case so far?

Kaplan: You know, I’m no different than anyone else. I’m looking at it from the outside. So far, the prosecution cases seem to me to come in extremely well. You have a jury very similar to the jury we had in our second trial, because it’s a jury for Manhattan. It was a snow day and our second trial. So we had a very Manhattan jury, which I was very happy about. And I think you know, his fundamental –E. Jean was pointing this out earlier– in the opening, Trump’s lawyer said that he’d never slept, never had any relationship whatsoever with Stormy Daniels. And that’s been completely disproven. So, you know, it’s just lie upon lie upon lie. And it’s kind of like the Jenga game my son used to play–when you pull out the bottom thing, everything collapses. 

Hinchliffe: E. Jean, have you spoken to Stormy Daniels?

Carroll: This is the first time I’ve ever told the story. I was at a live comedy show of Kathy Griffin. And I was backstage. At that time, a very large man with muscles popping on each side. Huge. He came back and Kathy says, “Oh, that is”–she named a famous comedian– “that’s his security.” And then he stepped forward. Like he was talking to an archbishop introducing the Virgin Mary. He said to Kathy Griffin, “Miss Griffin, Miss Daniels would like to come backstage and see you.” I ran up that backstage. I ran up to that dressing room. I shut the door. I took Kathy’s dog with me. And I sat like this. Because if the press, if anybody with the iPhones, anybody in the audience, anybody backstage, had seen Kathy Griffin, Stormy Daniels and E. Jean standing in a group–

Kaplan: E. Jean, you do know this is on the record, right?

Carroll: Well, okay. We did not meet, but she sounded very nice.

Hinchliffe: Robbie, always E. Jean’s attorney, so thank you. You know, we’re seeing events like Harvey Weinstein’s conviction being overturned in New York. What message do you hope that your victory sends to survivors in this environment for women’s rights?

Carroll: Oh, okay. We’re upset. But this doesn’t stop us. Right? No, it’s just a blip in the road. Robbie says we’re going to change the law. That’s it. Oh, we’re not gonna let Harvey Weinstein—

Hinchliffe: Which law are we changing?

Kaplan: So in our case, in E. Jean’s case we were allowed to put on the federal rules are different than the state rules. And we were allowed to put on evidence from two prior victims of Trump one year before what happened to E. Jean, and one year after we kind of book-ended it. And both of those women talked about the exact same MO that Trump used as he used for E. Jean. He has a tendency to kind of flirt chatted up with a woman kind of get very friendly, and then all of a sudden, when he thinks he’s in an advantageous position to pounce, and that’s what he did to E. Jean, it’s what he did to Natasha Steinoff, it’s what he did to Jessica Leads. That was the testimony that was admitted in the Harvey Weinstein case as well, but the New York Court of Appeals said that that wasn’t okay. New York needs to modernize its law so that it’s similar to federal law and evidence can come in.

Carroll: So, it’s strange. I think we feel badly, because if only two women had come forward about Weinstein, the case would have gone and it would have stood. But because 90 or 100 came forward, they threw it out. So it makes us very angry. It just makes no sense. And Robbie, is, I trust that when Robbie says, we’re going to change the law, we’re going to change the law because that is ridiculous. The more women who come forward, it doesn’t stand? It doesn’t make sense.

Kaplan: Kind of an oxymoron. Exactly. 

Hinchliffe: Yeah. Anyone can do it. Well, E. Jean, you’ve said you sued for defamation to get your reputation back after Trump really lobbed every possible insult at you after you said that he assaulted you. But in the years since, you know, his insults have been amplified by an army of online accounts and bots just kind of flinging similar insults at you and smearing your reputation. What has it been like for you to live with that? And even to know that, you know, there could be no end to it?

Carroll: Well, there is no end. It’s fine. Listen–I won.

Hinchliffe: Robbie, does it concern you?

Kaplan: Yeah. Yes, we won. And yes, the verdict was unprecedented. And he deserved every penny that he’s gonna have to pay. But as E. Jean said, the vitriol and the hate and the threats of violence don’t end. And that’s the world we live in today. And I can’t tell you I don’t go to bed most nights–

Carroll: I’m sure every woman in this room has people saying terrible things on X, on Instagram. We all get “you’re ugly, you’re old, you’re shriveled. You don’t deserve this. You’re pathetic. You’re hideous. You don’t deserve to go on.” We all are getting it. I am not unusual. Every woman in this room knows exactly what I’m talking about. Every woman.

Hinchliffe: Well, you know, of course, your victory is meaningful to so many, including so many in this room. You know, on the other hand, Trump is still the Republican nominee. So, what does it say to you about our public discourse that Trump could be found liable in a case like this, and for many millions of voters, it’s either a non-issue or something that they even rally around.

Carroll: I think he’s gonna lose the election. Oh, I think he’s gonna lose. I’m not worried. I don’t care if he’s the nominee, he’s not gonna win.

Hinchliffe: What makes you so certain?

Carroll: Because he’s behaved like an ass for the last year. It’s not going to fool enough Americans who are really pretty smart. He’s not going to fool them. He’s an ass. And he’s behaved that way. He walked out when Robbie was giving her final argument–the argument that told the jury the entire story and delivered all the evidence. He got right up in the middle. And Robbie was so intense, she didn’t even know he had gotten up and walked out. The judge had to say, “I want to say to the court that Mr. Trump has stood up and walked out.” So no, I don’t think he’s gonna win. 

Hinchliffe: Robbie, what do you think?

Kaplan: Well, as per usual, we’re gonna play our roles now. I worry. I definitely worry. It’s astounding to me that someone who has, now two unanimous juries have held that he sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll, that anyone would seriously consider that person to be a candidate for the presidency of the United States. But we live in a society today where, I think, for certain segments of the population that’s actually appealing, as insane as that sounds. But I do hope that there are enough sane people and hopefully enough sane women who, when they go into that voting box, are not going to vote for the crazy. It’s not just crazy. Crazy, childish, bully, sexual abuser.

Hinchliffe: Yeah. Robbie, you’ve seen our judicial system handle some of the most serious issues of our time, in addition to E. Jean’s case, you spearheaded a lawsuit over the white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville. You famously–

Carroll: Bankrupted them. Bankrupted them.

Hinchliffe: You argue for same sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court, the list goes on and on and on. But, you know, when you look at our judicial system–

Carroll: Don’t forget. She jackknifed the “Don’t say gay” in Florida. That was Robbie Kaplan.

Hinchliffe: Of course, We can stay here all night, just listing the list of the things on Robbie’s resume. But you know, when you look around at our national institutions, do you think they hold up to another case like this one? You know, when you look at the polarized political climate and our judicial system, is it as strong as it used to be? And what happens if there’s another Trump presidency? 

Kaplan: We were talking about this on the ride here today. And E. Jean said, “What will happen?” She doesn’t think it’ll happen. But “what will happen if Trump’s elected and my appeals continue?” and I said, “Well, look, in a normal system, under our rules, nothing should happen. We will win the appeals. His arguments are very weak. He has a bond on the $83.3 million. He has $5 million deposited with the court. When we win the appeals, we should get that money and justice will be served.” I said, “But–” and here’s the big but– “there’s this thing out there now called ‘the loss of democracy risk.’” And it’s a real thing, because we talked to financiers about the money that we were holding. And they said, “It’s too much of a risk.” There’s too much of a risk that Donald Trump will say “don’t pay the bond,” or “Southern District, New York don’t pay the judgment.” I still believe in my heart and my bones that that won’t happen. I think our judicial system, for the most part, has held up pretty well. But there’s a lot of smart people in the world out there that are very worried about that. And it’s not just for this group, it’s not just the lost democracy. Imagine if for the first time in our history, the President of the United States says not to pay a bond. What’s that gonna do to the rest of the economy? It’s some scary stuff. But E. Jean says he won’t win. So we don’t have to worry.

Hinchliffe: Well, what about when you zoom out? Not just this case, but the judicial system as a whole and our democratic institutions through another Trump presidency.

Kaplan: So, of the three branches, I think the judicial branch has, on average, done the best, but it’s not a lot of competition, right? We had a president who tried to take over– basically refused to follow an election. We have a legislative branch that basically can’t get anything done. And the level of vitriol and kind of just sheer stupidity in Congress is unprecedented. For the most part, the judicial branch has done a pretty good job. These people have lifetime tenure, they care about their jobs. Does it concern me that the Supreme Court has taken so long to decide an immunity issue, which is really baseless and frivolous? It does. So, I’m hoping that they will stand up for the law and for the fact that a president doesn’t isn’t immune from committing a crime. God, I feel like the voice of doom here. But time will tell. I’m sorry for that, guys. Drink more wine. I know I’m a huge downer.

Hinchliffe: Yeah, when we get off stage, then the fun will come out. So E. Jean, you shared your story about five years ago. Where do you see the ‘Me Too’ movement today? How has it evolved? Where do you think it’s going? Where do you think it should go?

Carroll: Sorry, what is going?

Hinchliffe: The ‘Me Too’ movement. 

Carroll: Oh. I think women will–I think we’ve made huge strides in the last 200 years. We’ve made even faster strides in the last 100 years. We’ve made enormous strides since the 60s. I think we’re gonna keep going. I think this is a blip. I think this is a blip. I think we move on because I don’t think there’s any stopping. Look at this room. These women are making a huge difference, right? This room could rule America as far as I’m concerned. So no, I feel very, very positive. I think we’re gonna go on and I don’t think we’re gonna be stopped. I really don’t. We just have to really work hard to help our sisters in the South get rights back over their own bodies. I think we can get that accomplished if–Mrs. Melinda Gates in the room, I believe she could help us do that. We are serious women. And a serious woman is an extremely powerful entity. And when we get together like this, I am really stirred. I mean, I didn’t even eat my bread. I mean, It’s very stirring to be in a group like this. It can be done. The thing is never to despair. Never despair. Always stay positive to be able to pull off. Oh, we gotta pull it off.

Hinchliffe: Yeah.

Kaplan: That’s how we won the case, guys. You just heard it. Never despair.

Hinchliffe: Let’s talk about your $83 million. So haven’t gotten it just yet is that?

Carroll: That’s right. That’s correct. Not a penny.

Hinchliffe: But E. Jean, you’ve talked a little bit about this before, but what are your plans?

Carroll: Oh, well, I’m going to give it to everything that Donald Trump hates. What he doesn’t want; he stacks a Supreme Court with conservative justices who take away women’s rights over their own bodies. I’m going to put as much as I can into gaining women’s rights back over our own bodies. I’m going to give it to making sure women can become lawyers, particularly mothers who would like to have some scholarship assistance. And those are my two main driving forces. And because he doesn’t have a dog, I want to give some to the ASPCA. That’s what I’m thinking. And, personally, I’m going to buy a toaster. 

Hinchliffe: That’s exciting. Oh my gosh.

Kaplan: She could definitely use a toaster, for sure. 

Carroll: I could use a toaster. 

Hinchliffe: That’ll be an exciting day. So, as we talked about, Trump is still the nominee. What do you think it would take to actually stop him or bring him down? Can anything?

Kaplan: I mean, the one thing that can bring him down are the votes of the American people in the next election. I don’t think short of that anything can or will, but we still have our democracy. We still have the power to vote and every goddamn–excuse my language, every single one of us needs to get out and get to everyone they know and make sure we all vote and talk to all the women who—they may not say it publicly to their friends or to their husband–but they know in their hearts that he’s a sick dude. And that he shouldn’t be the President of the United States ever again. And that’s what they need to do.

Carroll: Exactly. 

Hinchliffe: You agree? 

Carroll: What Robbie said. Yes, actually, women could actually win this election. We could do it. Yeah, I mean, women could do it. Black women, particularly in the 2020 election stepped up. And I think now I think the suburban mothers and the suburban women should step up in this election.

Hinchliffe: Wow. Well, this ties into that. What can the women in this room do to make this country a safer and more equitable place for women?

Carroll: Well, we could all wear shoes like yours. 

Hinchliffe: Thanks, E. Jean! Anything else?

Carroll: Yeah, hold them up. They’re great shoes.

Hinchliffe: They’re from DVF sample sales. So Robbie, what do you think?

Kaplan: I think we have to stick together. I think there’s so much in our society that’s so divisive right now. And there’s so many people, including foreign countries who are trying to divide us and I don’t think that it’s not, that’s not happening, it is happening. And we have to kind of keep our eye on the ball and our eyes on the prize. Keeping our democracy is a really big deal for our country and for the world. And we all have to just see that and try to the greatest extent we can to let all the other noise out there stay noise. And make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States again, and that we stay on this path and this great experiment in democracy continues for our children, our children’s children. 

Hinchliffe: Well, thank you both so much. 

Kaplan: Thank you!



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