Former President Donald Trump, attending his defamation damages trial Wednesday in New York City, told the judge in the case "I would love it" after the judge threatened to remove him from the courtroom.
The retort topped a series of tense exchanges between Trump's defense team and U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who colleagues characterize as a no-nonsense judge.
The former president is on trial in federal court to determine whether he will have to pay former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll additional damages for defaming her in 2019 when he denied her allegations of sexual abuse.
Last year, in a separate trial that Trump did not attend, a jury determined that Trump was liable for sexually abusing Carroll in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store in the 1990s, and that he defamed her in a 2022 social media post by calling her allegations "a Hoax and a lie" and saying "This woman is not my type!"
The testiness on Wednesday began as proceedings were just getting underway on the second day of the trial. With the jury out of the courtroom, Trump attorney Alina Habba made the defense's third request to adjourn the trial on Thursday so Trump could attend the funeral of former first lady Melania Trump's mother, Amalija Knavs, who died last Tuesday after a long health battle.
"I am asking your honor to have the kindness that my client deserves," Habba said to Judge Kaplan, who had already twice denied the defense's request to postpone the trial due to the funeral.
Kaplan, interrupting Habba, said, "Indeed Ms. Habba, the right that he has according to the Supreme Court of the United States is to be present either in person or through counsel."
Habba persisted, with Trump looking on, prompting the judge to instruct her to "sit down" and make no further argument.
"I said sit down," Kaplan said.
"I don't like to be spoken to that way," Habba responded. "I am asking your honor to please refrain from speaking to me that way. I am asking for an adjournment."
"It's denied. Sit down," Kaplan said.
Trump, sitting at the defense table, was heard to say, "He's a very nasty guy" within earshot of the jury.
Carroll subsequently took the witness stand to recount how, when Trump denied her claim by saying "she's not my type," she interpreted it to mean "I'm too ugly to assault." After the judge denied a motion from the defense, Trump was then heard laughing.
The former president was also seen scoffing, chuckling, and visibly shaking his head at some of what Carroll asserted on the witness stand.
During a break in the proceedings, with jury again out of the courtroom, Carroll's attorney brought Trump's behavior to the attention of the judge.
"Mr. Trump is sitting at the back table and has been loudly saying things" like "'Carroll's statements are false' and 'she now seems to have gotten her memory back,'" the attorney, Shawn Crowley, told Judge Kaplan.
Before the jury returned, Kaplan addressed Trump's side comments. The judge instructed Trump to "take special care" to keep his voice down when conferring with counsel, "so that the jury does not overhear it."
Trump, however, appeared not to heed the judge's warning -- prompting Crowley to lodge another complaint a bit later when the jury left for their lunch break.
"The defendant has been making statements that we can hear at counsel table," Crowley told the judge, quoting Trump as saying, "It is a witch hunt" and "It really is a con job." When a video of Trump disparaging Carroll was played for the court, Crowley said Trump remarked, "It's true."
Judge Kaplan, in response, addressed the defense from the bench.
"Mr. Trump has the right to be present here. That right can be forfeited and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive, which is what has been reported to me," Kaplan said. "Mr. Trump, I hope I don't have to consider excluding you from the trial."
"I understand you are probably very eager for me to do that," the judge added, to which Trump threw his up his arms and said, "I would love it, I would love it."
"I know you would, because you can't control yourself in this circumstance," Kaplan replied. "You just can't."
When the parties returned from the lunch break, the defense team made an immediate motion for Judge Kaplan to recuse himself from the trial due to what defense attorney Michael Madaio said was the judge's "general hostility" toward Trump's side.
Kaplan responded with a single word: "Denied."