The US government on Wednesday put forth a last-ditch attempt to derail a defamation lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump by a New York advice columnist who claims he raped her two decades go.
The Justice Department is fighting to replace Trump as the defendant in the suit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who went public last year with her claim and sued Trump after he called her a politically motivated liar.
US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in Manhattan last month rejected the Justice Department’s argument that Trump’s statements were made as part of his presidential duties. On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed a notice that it’s appealing the decision.
Had Kaplan allowed the substitution, the case would have been dismissed because the government can’t be sued for defamation.
It’s unclear what President-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department and a presumably very different attorney general will do with the legal action when his new administration gets underway in January.
Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, said in a statement that she’s confident the US Court of Appeals in New York will uphold the decision so the case can move quickly to the exchange of evidence. The attorney has been pushing to depose Trump under oath and force him to submit a DNA sample to compare to a sample from the dress Carroll says she wore on the day of the attack.
“From the very start of this case, Donald Trump’s number one goal has been to avoid discovery and cause delay,” Kaplan said. “It remains to be seen whether the new attorney general will agree that Trump was acting within the scope of his employment as President when he defamed our client.“
In the lower court ruling, Kaplan held that Trump isn’t a federal “employee” under a law that allows the U.S. to replace government workers as defendants when they’re sued over actions taken as part of their job. The “undisputed facts” of the case show Trump’s comment about Carroll can’t be considered part of his presidential duties, the judge wrote.