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LinkedIn co-founder defends funding rape accuser suit against Trump

"I want to be clear that I've never taken any steps to hide the financial support that I have provided to this lawsuit after it started," he said

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman (Photo: Bloomberg)


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By Erik Larson

Reid Hoffman, the billionaire LinkedIn co-founder who is also a major donor to the Democratic Party, is defending his role in financing a New York author’s lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump of sexual assault — a landmark case that is set to go to trial next week.

Hoffman said Friday in a post on LinkedIn that his grant to a nonprofit backing E. Jean Carroll’s battery lawsuit against Trump fits with his drive to protect “American values” and “reinforce the importance of the rule of law, equality, and helping the disadvantaged.”

“In general, I prefer to talk about these values and ideas over commenting on specific gifts that I’ve made,” Hoffman said in the post. “But there is a theme to a number of them: protecting the rule of law from the threat posed by Donald Trump’s scorched-earth legal methods.”

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, revealed Hoffman’s financing to Trump’s legal team in a letter earlier this month, prompting the former president’s attorney to send a letter to the judge questioning Carroll’s credibility and motives for suing. Hoffman’s Democratic connections backed Trump’s long-standing claim that the lawsuit was politically motivated, Trump’s legal team argued.

Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, declined to comment on Hoffman’s post. She won court permission to seek evidence from Carroll’s lawyer to determine whether the writer had answered truthfully during her deposition last year when she said she wasn’t aware of any outside financing for her lawsuit.

Hoffman said in his post Trump’s legal team has characterized his support of Carroll as “secret.”

“I want to be clear that I’ve never taken any steps to hide the financial support that I have provided to this lawsuit after it started,” he wrote. 

Kaplan has said there is nothing unusual about getting outside financing for lawsuits, including in cases that are politically charged. She pointed to Trump’s own use of funds donated by his political supporters to pay for legal fees, despite Trump being a billionaire. 

“Carroll is not a wealthy person,” Kaplan wrote. “Trump, by contrast, claims to be a billionaire who has reportedly used his own PAC funding to pay for his personal attorneys.”

The lawsuit going to trial next week was filed under the New York Adult Survivors Act, a new state law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases even if they are decades old.

Hoffman’s post on Friday said money from his past grants have also been used to support Lisa Rosenberg, whose group Open the Government “has helped train citizens on how to use Freedom of Information Act requests to expose government abuses against women and families.”

The billionaire has also financially supported lawsuits seeking to block participants in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters from holding public office, according to his post. He has also backed civil lawsuits filed by victims of the violent 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, under the Ku Klux Klan Act. Carroll’s lawyer, Kaplan, was also behind that litigation.

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First Published: Apr 22 2023 | 8:20 AM IST

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