In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking a federal court for permission to take over Donald Trump’s defense in a defamation lawsuit filed by former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll.
Carroll accused Trump of raping her in a department store changing room in the 1990s. In interviews conducted in 2019, the President denied the claims and suggested Carroll had fabricated the incident to sell copies of her new memoir. Carroll sued for defamation in November of 2019.
See previous story: Judge Says Trump Can’t Dismiss E. Jean Carrol’s Defamation Suit
In a memo submitted on September 8th to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the DOJ argued that the federal government should replace the president’s private counsel because Trump was acting in his official capacity when he denied Carrol’s accusations.
The substitution would not only help Trump financially–his defense, including any settlement or damages payout, would be funded using taxpayer money–but would also likely spell the end of the lawsuit. Federal officials are typically given broad protections from lawsuits.
Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, denounced the Justice Department’s filing. “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.”