Trump appears at CNN Town Hall after sexual abuse verdict

Former President Donald Trump is set to face tough questioning from both host Kaitlan Collins and the public during a two-hour New Hampshire Town Hall event on CNN, scheduled for Wednesday. The event comes just one day after a civil jury found Trump liable for sexually assaulting a reporter or consulting nearly three decades ago.

Though the forum was announced publicly last week, the stakes have sharply risen following the verdict. The ruling against Trump saw a New York jury finding him guilty of sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll, for which she was awarded $5 million in damages. While the verdict holds no criminal penalties, it swifts the focus onto the various investigations surrounding Trump.

Trump is currently under investigation in Georgia and Washington, over his alleged interference in the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents, as well as potential obstruction of justice. The event facilitates an opportunity to address queries surrounding his treatment towards women over the years, as Carroll is one of more than a dozen women who have accused him of sexual assault or harassment.

Trump is known to have a strained relationship with CNN, calling the network “fake news” and having a falling out with host Kaitlan Collins personally. Previously, she was barred from a Rose Garden event after shouting questions at him. However, CNN’s invitation is viewed by Trump’s team as an opportunity to widen their constituent reach from conservative channels.

This event will also serve as a contrast to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, viewed as one of Trump’s main rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, who is expected to launch his campaign in the coming weeks. DeSantis has taken a sheltered media approach, preferring to avoid questions from the mainstream press as he embraces Fox News, Trump’s former ally.

It remains unclear how Tuesday’s verdict against Trump will impact the race, as his impeachment in New York has only seemed to bolster his standing in the GOP primary. Before Tuesday’s verdict, CNN’s town hall brought suspicions on both sides, with the Democrats questioning whether a man who continues to spread lies about his 2020 election defeat should be given a primetime broadcast platform.

Meanwhile, conservatives have questioned why Trump would appear on a network he has decried continuously as “fake news,” potentially giving it a ratings boost. Despite this, a Trump adviser, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that CNN executives had given the former president a compelling introduction during the talks, and noted that Trump has been known to step out of the traditional comfort zone of Republicans, as he succeeded in 2016.

Trump slipped the announcement of his appearance in ahead of Tuesday’s verdict, in a statement released reading “CNN was rightfully desperate” to get him a ratings boost. The statement was shared on Truth Social, and the former president’s ending remark reads, “They made me a deal I couldn’t refuse!!! Me. Let’s see what happens? Wednesday night at 8:00!!!”

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