A federal judge on Tuesday turned away the Justice Department’s attempt to protect Donald Trump from being sued for defamation by E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.
Bill Barr’s Justice Department last month tried to insert itself into the case by seeking to have DOJ, rather than Trump, substituted as the defendant in the lawsuit. Citing a law designed to protect federal employees against litigation stemming from the performance of their duties, DOJ claimed that when Trump denied the rape allegation, said she was “not my type” and branded Carroll a liar he did so in his capacity as president.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected that argument and ruled in federal district court in Manhattan that Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against Trump personally will go forward.
Today’s ruling probably doesn’t come as a shock within the Justice Department. While it had filed the motion to substitute the government for Trump in the case, DOJ didn’t go all-out to prevail. At a hearing last week the DOJ civil division attorney handling the case declined Judge Kaplan’s offer for him to make oral arguments in the case by phone. The lawyer was banned from the courthouse because he would have traveled there from Virginia. New York currently requires visitors from Virginia, which recently has experienced a spike in coronavirus cases, to quarantine for 14 days.
Carroll sued last year, saying defamatory attacks by Trump include assertions that Carroll had falsely accused other men of rape, that she lied about him to advance a secret political conspiracy and sell books and that he had never met her — even though they’d been photographed together.