- The Department of Justice is seeking to represent President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
- In the highly unusual move, DOJ lawyers argued Trump was acting in an official capacity when Carroll brought the lawsuit and invoked a rule granting federal employees immunity from lawsuits.
- “Trump’s effort to wield the power of the US government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent,” Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, told Business Insider in a statement.
- Trump’s previous attempts to stall the case were rejected by a New York court last month, but Tuesday’s move could further delay Carroll’s efforts to gather evidence, including DNA samples and a deposition of Trump.
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The US Department of Justice is seeking to intervene in a defamation lawsuit brought by the advice columnist E. Jean Carroll against President Donald Trump, according to court documents filed Tuesday â€” essentially making the US government the defendant.
Carroll, who publicly accused Trump of raping her in a department-store dressing room in the mid-1990s, filed a defamation lawsuit against the president in November after he denied meeting her despite photographic evidence to the contrary, accusing her of using the story to try to sell her memoir and responding to the allegations by saying she’s “not my type.” Trump has denied the accusation.
In the highly unusual move, DOJ lawyers argued that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office” when making the comments and that the suit, therefore, falls under the Federal Torts Claim Act, which would put the US government on the hook for defending him and paying his legal costs. The move would take it out of state court and move it to federal court and replace Trump’s personal lawyers with government ones.
“Trump’s effort to wield the power of the US 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,” Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, told Business Insider in a statement.
Other legal experts also expressed doubts about the DOJ’s rationale. A former DOJ investigator general, Mark Bromwich, said in a tweet that the “lawyers assigned to the case should decline to work on it” and called for investigations into Attorney General William Barr and the agency over whether it constituted “waste and abuse if not fraud.”
“What possible justification is there for the Justice Department to spend our tax dollars defending Trump from decades-old sexual assault allegations?” the former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted.
Carroll and Kaplan also accused Trump of trying to avoid turning over potentially damaging evidence after a New York state court last month rejected his attempts to stall the case.
“Trump was soon going to be required to produce documents, provide a DNA sample, and sit for a deposition. Realising 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 US Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers,” Kaplan said.
“Today’s actions demonstrate that Trump will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government, to block discovery from going forward in my case before the upcoming election to try to prevent a jury from ever deciding which one of us is lying,” Carroll said in a statement to Business Insider.
At least 25 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct since the 1970s. Trump has broadly dismissed the allegations, which include ogling, harassment, groping, and rape, as “fabricated” and politically motivated accounts pushed by the media and his political opponents.
Tuesday’s filing from the DOJ, which is funded by taxpayers, also comes on the heels of the New York Times report that Trump’s campaign had spent at least $US58.4 million on the president’s legal fees, often surrounding his personal business.
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