What can halt the Donald Trump juggernaut? Not even, it seems, being found liable by a civil court jury for the sexual abuse of a female journalist in the 1990s. This week’s $5mn damages award to E Jean Carroll for battery and defamation — though Trump was cleared of a separate claim of rape — was, as Carroll noted, a victory “not just for me but for every women who has suffered because she was not believed”. It was a demonstration, too, that the US legal system is capable of holding Trump to account. Sadly, it seems to be the only part of America’s political and institutional set-up that can do so.
The difficulty for the “mainstream” media in acting as a check on the former president was highlighted by his pugnacious town hall appearance on CNN a day after the verdict. Not only did Trump continue his verbal attack on his accuser. He fired off a volley of falsehoods — that the 2020 election was stolen, that he had quickly tried to avert the January 6 assault on the US Capitol — which came so thick and fast that a presenter conceded the channel “didn’t have time to fact-check every lie he told”. The audience of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters in New Hampshire responded mostly with laughter and applause.