Federal judge declines to 'excuse' Trump from rape case
Donald Yrump (Photo by Saul Loeb for AFP)

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan declined to excuse Donald Trump from a defamation trial brought by author E. Jean Carroll after she claimed the former president raped her.

In an order issued on Thursday, Kaplan said that he would not grant Trump's request to be excused from the trial but would not order him to appear.

"First, the Court neither excuses nor declines to excuse Mr. Trump from attending the trial or from testifying in this case," Kaplan wrote. "As far as the Court is aware, Mr. Trump is under no legal obligation to be present or to testify. The plaintiff has made clear that she does not intend to call him as a witness. The decision whether to attend or to testify is his alone to make. There is nothing for the Court to excuse."

The judge also expressed skepticism at claims by Trump's attorneys that the former president's absence was "by design, avoids the logistical burdens that his presence, as the former president, would cause the courthouse."

"As it would do for any person with business before the Court, the Court will do everything within its power to enable Mr. Trump to exercise that right [to testify]," Kaplan said. "Moreover, it is entirely confident that the United States Marshals Service and the City of New York will do their parts in securing that right to Mr. Trump, just as they repeatedly have done in other cases involving security concerns."

Kaplan observed that Trump has been aware of the April 25 trial date for some time.

"There has been quite ample time within which to make whatever logistical arrangements should be made for his attendance, and certainly quite a bit more time than the five or six days between his recent indictment on state criminal charges and his arraignment on that indictment approximately one block from the location of the trial of this case," the judge remarked. "Mr. Trump is free to attend, to testify, or both. He is free also to do none of those things."

Kaplan also said attorneys were forbidden from telling the jury why Trump may or may not testify.

"In the meantime, there shall be no reference by counsel for Mr. Trump in the presence of the jury panel or the trial jury to Mr. Trump's alleged desire to testify or to the burdens that any absence on his part allegedly might spare, or might have spared, the Court or the City of New York," he said.