The Justice Department has decided to stay the course in its defense of former President Donald Trump in a defamation suit brought by a writer who accused him of raping her at a New York City department store in the 1990s.
In a filing with the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, cited by Politico, the DoJ argued that a law governing suits against federal officials justified the move to take on the former president’s defense in the case of E. Jean Carroll.
“In making and defending a Westfall Act certification … the Department of Justice is not endorsing the allegedly tortious conduct or representing that it actually furthered the interests of the United States. Nor is a reviewing court making any such determinations in upholding the Department’s certification,” the acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Brian Boynton, wrote in the submission.
It was also added that Trump was acting in line with his official duties as president when he denied the woman’s rape allegations.
“Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public concern is undoubtedly part of an elected official’s job. Courts have thus consistently and repeatedly held that allegedly defamatory statements made in that context are within the scope of elected officials’ employment — including when the statements were prompted by press inquiries about the official’s private life.”
The White House was cited by Buzzfeed News as confirming it was not consulted by the DoJ on the decision.
Controversial Rape Case
E. Jean Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, originally alleged in an article in New York Magazine published in 2019 that in the mid-1990s Trump pushed her against a dressing-room wall at Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York and assaulted her.
The bombshell claim came ahead of the release of Carroll’s book, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal, which covers the alleged incident.
In response to the charges, in an interview with The Hill Trump said:
“Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened.”
He then said that the woman was lying. Carroll proceeded to sue the then-president in November 2019, filing a defamation suit, claiming Trump had lied when he denied raping her.
In September 2020, the-then Trump-led DoJ intervened, requesting that the US government be named as the plaintiff in the case and arguing that the 45th POTUS had been acting within the scope of his duties as a federal government employee when he denied the allegations. The federal government cannot be sued for defamation under existing law.
However, in October, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan prevented the DoJ from substituting the US government as the defendant instead of Trump. The case is now in front of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
On the 2020 presidential campaign trail, during a town hall event in October, Joe Biden stated that the Carroll case was an example of Trump abusing his power by trying to use the DoJ as his “own law firm.”
Responding to the Justice Department’s newly-filed brief, Carroll said in a statement:
"As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault – the DoJ is trying to stop me from having that same right. I am angry! I am offended! I and my attorneys Robbie Kaplan and Joshua Matz are confident that Judge Kaplan's decision will be affirmed by the Second Circuit."