Justice Dept: Trump Denied Committing Rape On Behalf Of All Americans
The Justice Department has effectively argued in court that President Donald Trump was denying a rape accusation on behalf of the American people when he rejected writer E. Jean Carroll’s claim that he raped her decades ago in a department store dressing room.
- Trump accused Carroll of lying, saying he had never met her and adding, “She’s not my type.” He also suggested she made the claim in an effort to boost book sales.
- According to The New York Times, the Justice Department said Monday that Trump should not be sued personally over the denial because he was acting in his official capacity as president when the statement was made.
- Attorney General William Barr moved in September to intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed in a New York court.
Ms. Carroll has said that Mr. Trump raped her in a department store two decades ago and then falsely denied the attack while in office, branding her a liar and harming her reputation.
But Justice Department lawyers say that even though the allegation concerns an incident that occurred decades before Mr. Trump became president, his denial was still an official act because he “addressed matters relating to his fitness for office as part of an official White House response to press inquiries.”
Using a law designed to protect federal employees from defamation suits when they perform their duties, Mr. Barr sought to transfer the lawsuit from state court to Federal District Court in Manhattan and to substitute the federal government for Mr. Trump as the defendant.
- If Barr’s argument succeeds, Carroll’s lawsuit effectively will be dismissed, The Times reported, because “government employees enjoy immunity from most defamation claims.”
- Carroll’s lawyers responded to the government’s argument, writing: “There is not a single person in the United States — not the president and not anyone else — whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted.”
- However, the Justice Department argued in its Monday filing that Trump rebutted rather than slandered Carroll, and that this “fell within the scope of his official role as president, the department said, because a claim of rape — even a false one — could have an impact on his job,” The Times wrote.
Ms. Carroll’s allegations “sought to call into question the president’s fitness for office and a response was necessary for the president to effectively govern,” the Justice Department said. “The president’s challenged statements were directly relevant to his role as president and leader of the executive branch.”
- Trump initially tried to delay the lawsuit by claiming that as a sitting president, he is immune to civil lawsuits.
But in August, a New York State judge, Verna L. Saunders, denied his request. She cited a ruling by the United States Supreme Court this summer, which rejected a claim by Mr. Trump that, as president, he was immune from a state criminal investigation. That dispute arose after the Manhattan district attorney’s office subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s accountants for his tax returns.
The judge’s ruling meant that Mr. Trump would have to provide a DNA sample, as requested by Ms. Carroll’s lawyers, to determine whether it matched material on the dress Ms. Carroll said she was wearing during the encounter.