On Friday a billionaire Democratic megadonor defended funding of a rape suit against former President Donald Trump. This raised questions as to why the accuser’s attorneys continued to try to keep the documents about the funding arrangement secret, and why the judge who presided over the case decided to seal them.
Reid Hoffman, a former executive chairman and founder of LinkedIn, said in an online posting that he supports E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit against Trump.
Hoffman wrote: “While Trump’s Legal Team has described my support for Carroll’s suit as secret, I want to make it clear that I never took any steps to conceal the financial support I provided to this case after it began.” “Secondly, but more importantly, as media attention is focused primarily on this particular story, let’s remember the larger point: that the rule of the law and the idea that our courts should be a system of justice for everyone, not only those with the money and power to manipulate the game, are important.”
Carroll, a journalist who writes a column of advice, claimed that Trump raped her in the changing rooms at Bergdorf Goodman in 1990. Trump denied the accusations and called Carroll a liar. Carroll responded by filing a defamation suit against the former President, which is still pending. A battery lawsuit will begin next week at Manhattan federal court. The lawyers for Trump failed to delay the case.
Hoffman writes that in addition to Carroll, he has supported several other “grantees”, listing other examples.
The megadonor said on LinkedIn that “Women have been Trump’s main target in and out of court.” Trump’s hatred of women has been an important part of his philosophy for most of his adult life. My long-standing commitment to supporting women who fight for justice and progress in philanthropy and politics has also been my priority. . . . “I am proud to have helped level the playing fields in the courts for the people who Trump and his cronies have bullied and attacked.”
Hoffman admitted that he had been funding Carroll’s suit, but a federal court agreed to seal documents containing information about the funding.
U.S. district judge Lewis Kaplan granted a request by Roberta Kaplan (the lawyer for Carroll) to seal all documents related to the case, including any future filings or hearings.
The public’s interest is minimal in this case, especially since the parties have already provided meaningful information to the public about a topic that was otherwise irrelevant and tangential. Kaplan also noted that certain files could be protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Kaplan said that jurors should not know who funded the lawsuit. He claimed that the person or persons paying the legal bills had “nothing to do directly with the merits of the case”.
Hoffman, one of Silicon Valley’s leading donors to Democratic campaigns, political action committees, and left-wing organizations, has donated millions to these groups. Fox News Digital reported previously that Hoffman’s money goes to non-traditional groups, which are not required to disclose their funding. They often operate in shadows. In 2018, he was forced to apologize for funding a group that falsely claimed that the Russian government supported Alabama Republican Roy Moore during a special Senate election in 2017.
Kaplan has warned that the jury selection for Trump’s case will begin on Tuesday. She also said that divulging details about Trump’s financial support could compromise her client.
She wrote that “evidence that would be inadmissible during the trial shouldn’t be entered unnecessarily into the public record right before this highly-watched trial begins,” adding that such an act could lead to “unfair prejudgment and confusion.”
Alina Habba told Business Insider, the attorney who represents Trump in the case, that she would be against the judge’s decision to seal the documents.
The materials are not kept secret by Judge Kaplan because Hoffman is known to be Carroll’s financial backer.
Habba had asked the judge earlier this month to delay the trial and reopen the process of discovery in the case. Carroll’s team explained that Hoffman’s nonprofit, American Future Republic, had donated money to Kaplan’s law firm.
Habba said that the funding was “particularly important in this instant matter, given the political overtones” of the case and Trump’s presidential campaign for 2024.
Kaplan stated in a separate court filing that Hoffman’s non-profit funded her firm on a contingent basis and that the funding was only used to pay for “certain fees and costs associated with the firm’s work done on Carroll’s behalf.” Kaplan also said that Carroll did not personally communicate with Hoffman’s nonprofit or its financial supporters.
“The resources Ms. Carroll’s counsel were able to secure obviously have no relation to what happened at Bergdorf-Goodman or whether Donald Trump lied to Ms. Carroll beginning in June 2019, when this dispute started,” wrote Kaplan. Kaplan appeared to acknowledge that the firm had either solicited or accepted, unknown amounts of money from a Democratic megadonor.
The judge refused a delay in the trial but allowed Trump’s attorneys to question Carroll on whether she was aware of the funding. He said that jurors might find this question relevant to evaluating Carroll’s credibility.
The deadline for additional discoveries passed this week.
Trump’s attendance at the trial is unclear. The judge did not force him to attend, and his attorneys haven’t yet confirmed whether Trump will be present.