A New York jury has concluded that it is more likely than not that Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed E Jean Carroll. The verdict may be a harbinger of political and legal damage to come.
While the ruling may not make a dent in Mr Trump’s base within the Republican Party, where his supporters view the US legal system with scepticism and have stood by him through all manners of adversity, it could have a lasting sting.
The response of two Republican senators highlights the risk this moment poses to his 2024 bid to regain the White House.
“It has a cumulative effect,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota. “People are going to have to decide if they want to deal with all the drama.
“I don’t think he can get elected,” warned John Cornyn of Texas. “You can’t win a general election with just your base.”
In the end, Mr Trump may have been his own worst enemy in this case.
Central to Ms Carroll’s lawsuit was the former president’s deposition testimony, in which he seemed both demeaning and defensive. He explained away his infamous Access Hollywood tape boasts about grabbing women by their genitals as reflecting a historical truth about the power of celebrities – “unfortunately or fortunately”.
He said that both Ms Carroll and another woman who testified that Mr Trump sexually assaulted her were not his type – a description he also applied, voluntarily, to the female attorney conducting the deposition itself.
For a jury weighing whether Mr Trump was the kind of person capable of sexual assault – or, at least, whether he was more credible than his accuser – it was exactly the wrong attitude to present.