The Department of Justice is seeking to defend Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed against the president in his personal capacity by E. Jean Carroll, a writer who has said Trump sexually assaulted her at a department store in the ’90s.
In a motion filed on Tuesday, the Justice Department argued that government attorneys could defend Trump because he was “acting within the scope of his office or employment” at the time when he denied knowing Carroll or having assaulted her because she wasn’t his “type” — comments that Carroll has contended in her lawsuit were defamatory.
Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s attorney, said in a statement that the Justice Department’s attempted intervention is “shocking” and offensive to her as a lawyer and citizen.
“On the very day that he would have been required to appeal, Trump instead enlisted the U.S. Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers and argue that when he lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she ‘wasn’t his type,’ he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States. Even in today’s world, that argument is shocking. It offends me as a lawyer, and offends me even more as a citizen,” Kaplan said. “Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent, and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out.”
Carroll, who filed a defamation suit against Trump in November after he denied knowing her or assaulting her, wrote in her memoir — an excerpt of which was published in June of that year — that Trump had sexually assaulted her in a dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman in the ’90s. At the time, the White House called Carroll’s lawsuit “frivolous” and accused the author of being a “fraud.”
Though the suit has continued to drag on, a judge rejected Trump’s request last month to delay the suit, allowing Carroll to continue seeking a DNA sample from Trump to compare with the dress Carroll said she was wearing at the time of the assault.