Justice Dept. intervenes on behalf of Trump in defamation case brought by woman who accused him of rape
Category: News & PoliticsVia: pj • 3 weeks ago • 30 comments
By: Matt Zapotosky
The Justice Department on Tuesday intervened in the defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her years ago, moving the matter to federal court and signaling it wants to make the U.S. government — rather than Trump himself — the defendant in the case.
In filings in federal court in Manhattan, the Justice Department asserted that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he denied during interviews in 2019 that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store. Carroll sued Trump over that denial in November .
The maneuver removes the case — at least for now — from state court in New York, where a judge last month had rejected Trump’s bid for a delay and put Carroll’s team back on course to seek a DNA sample and an under-oath interview from the president. It also means that Justice Department lawyers will be essentially aiding Trump’s defense, and taxpayers could be on the hook for any potential damages, if the U.S. government is allowed to stand in for Trump. Winning damages against the government, though, would be more unlikely than in a suit against Trump, as the notion of “sovereign immunity” gives the government and its employees broad protection from lawsuits.
Justice Department lawyers said that because Trump was acting as president when he denied the allegations, a judge should “substitute the United States for President Trump as defendant.”
In a statement, Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, blasted the department’s filing. She noted that because a New York state court had rejected Trump’s bid for a delay, he was “soon going to be required to produce documents, provide a DNA sample, and sit for a deposition.”
“Realizing that there was no valid basis to appeal that decision in the New York courts, on the very day that he would have been required to appeal, Trump instead enlisted the U.S. Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers and argue that when he lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she ‘wasn’t his type,’ he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States,” Kaplan said.
“Even in today’s world, that argument is shocking. It offends me as a lawyer, and offends me even more as a citizen. Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent, and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out.”