Taxpayers are continuing to fund Donald Trump’s court fight against a woman who accused him of rape — and her attorneys are arguing that the Justice Department’s involvement is both “wrong and dangerous.”
Author and journalist E. Jean Carroll accused Trump in a 2019 book of raping her years earlier in a dressing room in a Manhattan department store. Trump called her a liar, adding: “She’s not my type.” Carroll sued him for defamation.
In a highly controversial move, the DOJ stepped in to defend Trump against the defamation suit, claiming his denunciation of Carroll was part of his official duties. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, however, blocked the move, ruling last year that Trump’s insults had absolutely “no relationship to the official business of the United States.”
Carroll’s attorneys had argued at the time that “only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted.”
Federal attorneys challenged the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and the Justice Department was again blasted in a brief filed with that court Friday on Carroll’s behalf.
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, again called Trump’s comments attacking Carroll purely personal, arguing that there was no legal basis to interpret them as falling within the scope of his official work.
She accused the DOJ of attempting to establish a new rule that would create “categorical immunity for any federal official who defames anyone while speaking to the press or responding to perceived critics. ... That rule is both wrong and dangerous, and this Court should reject Appellants’ effort to avoid answering for Trump’s conduct.”
Allowing the DOJ to defend Trump “reflects a disturbing belief that federal officials should have free rein to destroy the reputations and livelihoods of any perceived critic — no matter how unrelated to the business of governance, and no matter how personal their motives for doing so,” Kaplan argued. “That has never been — and never should be — the law in the United States.”
In a statement to Law & Crime, Carroll slammed the DOJ’s arguments that Trump’s attack on her credibility and ugly insults were somehow part of his “presidential” duties. “This is offensive to me. It is offensive to sexual assault survivors everywhere,” she said. “I hope that it is offensive to the Justice Department under President Biden.”
Carroll added: “I am confident that the Second Circuit will make it clear that no president, including Donald Trump, can get away scot free with maliciously defaming a woman he sexually assaulted.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Carroll’s lawyer. She is a woman named Roberta Kaplan, not a man named Robert Kaplan.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.