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Takeaways from Trump’s CNN town hall: election lies and attacks on E. Jean Carroll

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By MICHELLE L. PRICE

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s primetime return to CNN Wednesday for the first time since 2016 felt like a throwback: Trump with the long, twisting answers; the interviewer at times struggling to fact-check him or return his focus to the question at hand; and then, eventually, both talking over each other as Trump flings insults her way.

Wednesday’s town hall in New Hampshire was the first time in years that Trump faced prolonged questioning from an outlet outside the friendly confines of conservative media outlets of his choosing.

He had branded CNN “fake news” and never granted any of its journalists an interview while president. Trump’s campaign said he was appearing on the network now to step outside a GOP comfort zone as he already starts to turn his focus to a potential 2024 general election rematch with Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump’s appearance on CNN comes at a time of jarring dualities for the former president: The Republican is facing a crescendo of legal problems yet seems in a stronger position than ever to become his party’s presidential nominee. He’s attempting to reach mainstream media viewers despite having deepened his embrace of extremists since leaving the White House, continuing to align himself with those involved in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and dining with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist.

Here’s what to know about Trump’s CNN town hall:

QUESTIONS ON SEXUAL ABUSE CASE

Trump’s appearance came a day after a New York jury found him liable for sexually abusing a woman nearly 30 years ago and defaming her when she spoke about it publicly.

Jurors awarded columnist E. Jean Carroll $5 million in damages. The jury rejected her claim of rape and instead found Trump responsible for a lesser degree of sexual abuse. Trump denied it, saying he never encountered Carroll at a 1996 department store and did not know her and has said he plans to appeal the verdict.

Trump skipped attending the trial and did not testify in his own defense during the proceedings, with jurors instead being shown video from a pretrial deposition, making Wednesday the first time he’s had to face a public questioning in the case.

Trump, when asked by CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins about the verdict, said his poll numbers went up and repeated his statements that he didn’t know Carroll, though at least one photograph has surfaced of them together.

“I don’t know her. I never met her. I had no idea who she is.” He dismissed a question from Collins about whether it would impact his standing with female voters and in response, he launched into a recounting of Carroll’s claims in a mocking voice, drawing laughs and claps from the live audience. Collins tried to interrupt but Trump continued and called it “a fake story” and referred to Carroll as “a wack job.”

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