House Democrats responded on Tuesday to the Justice Department’s decision to represent President Donald Trump in a defamation case. Signed by 54 members, a letter asks Attorney General Bill Barr to reverse the decision, saying that denying a sexual assault, lying about having met the victim, and denigrating her physical appearance are not activities within the scope of presidential duties, and should not be defended as such.
As the Wasington Post reported last week, journalist E. Jean Carroll, in 2019, decided to share her story of a rape she says occurred in the 1990s. Trump roundly denied it, claiming he’d never even met her, and that he couldn’t have raped her because, “She’s not my type.”
When Carroll, who has evidence in the way of a DNA sample she says Trump left on her clothing, sued for defamation, saying that her career and reputation were harmed by Trump’s public denigration of her, Trump’s legal team began the usual dodges. Finally, when a New York court denied another attempt at delaying, the case was handed over to the Justice Department.
Saying that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he denied the accusations of assault, the Justice Department moved to take over the president’s defense, buying him another delay in the process.
Congressional Democrats are calling for a reversal of this decision. Representative Jackie Speier shared a copy of the letter, signed by 54 members of Congress, Wednesday.
Today 54 Members led by @HouseDemWomen wrote AG Barr urging DOJ to withdraw its motion to intervene on POTUS' behalf in @ejeancarroll's suit. Denying a claim of assault from 20 years before you took office is not an official duty & this sends a dangerous message to survivors! pic.twitter.com/Qe4iRWXOrY
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) September 15, 2020
Calling the move a “gross abuse of power,” and an “attempt to bring the resources of the United States government to bear on a private legal matter and at the expense of U.S. taxpayers,” the letter goes on to lay out the history of the case, including evidence refuting Trump’s claim that he didn’t know Carroll.
It is difficult to imagine that it is within the scope of a president’s official duties to deny a claim that he committed sexual assault over two decades before he took office — let alone to lie about having met the victim and denigrate her physical appearance.
“Not only is the motion to intervene a further politicization of the Department of Justice,” the signers say, “it sends a clear message to survivors of sexual violence that the federal government does not take their claims seriously.”
The letter notes that Carroll is only one of at least 25 women who have made credible claims of sexual assault by the president and that for the federal government to defend the president in attacking these women suggests approval and will dissuade other victims of sexual violence from coming forward.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com