NEW YORK CITY — The Justice Department intervened Tuesday in a defamation lawsuit brought against President Donald Trump by a woman who said he raped her in the 1990s, moving the case to federal court.
In a filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Justice Department officials argued that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office” when he denied in June 2019 that he had raped magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll.
In a memoir published last year, Carroll said Trump assaulted her in a dressing room at a New York City department store in 1995 or 1996. She filed a defamation lawsuit against him in November 2019, accusing him of “malicious libel.”
Justice Department officials said Tuesday that under the Federal Tort Claims Act, Attorney General William Barr has the authority to move the case to federal court and to take it from Trump’s attorneys. If a judge accepts the argument, taxpayers could be liable for any potential damages, The Washington Post reported. The case could also be thrown out because the federal government can’t be sued for defamation, according to CNN.
The filing comes a month after a judge declined Trump’s request to pause proceedings in the case, NPR reported. Carroll’s lawyers have asked that the president provide a DNA sample to compare to genetic material on a dress that Carroll said she was wearing at the time of the encounter, The New York Times reported. Trump was also expected to be called to sit for a deposition, according to Carroll’s attorney, Robbie Kaplan.
The president had until Tuesday to appeal the New York judge’s decision, Kaplan said.
“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 wrote.
“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.”
In a series of tweets Tuesday, Carroll slammed the DOJ move, calling it “UNPRECEDENTED.”
“Sir, I and my attorney Robbie Kaplan, are ready!” she wrote in a tweet addressed to the president. “So is every woman who has ever been silenced! So is every American citizen who has been trampled by (Attorney General) Bill Barr and the DOJ! BRING IT!”
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