The president of the United States denigrating a person accusing him of sexual assault is not part of his official duties, regardless of what his attorney general claims, lawyers for journalist E. Jean Carroll asserted Monday in a court filing.
“There is not a single person in the United States — not the President and not anyone else — whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted. That should not be a controversial proposition. Remarkably, however, the Justice Department seeks to prove it wrong,” wrote lawyers for Carroll, who is suing President Donald Trump for defamation.
Trump sought to undermine Carroll in response to her allegation that he raped her in the 1990s.
“Trump acted for decidedly personal reasons unrelated to furthering any interests of the United States,” the lawyers added. “Moreover, it is inconceivable that Trump’s employers — a.k.a., the American people — expect his job to include viciously defaming a woman he sexually assaulted.”
“Only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted.”
Last month, the Department of Justice took the highly unusual step of seeking to make the U.S. government the defendant in the case, not Trump and his personal lawyers. If approved by a judge, the request would mean Attorney General William Barr would in effect be defending Trump — cementing the alarming trend of Barr’s DOJ becoming a self-serving instrument of the president.
Barr, who later said he was acting at the request of the White House, argued that Trump was acting in his capacity as president of the United States when he attacked Carroll following her allegation last June.
“Only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted,” Carroll’s lawyers wrote Monday.
In the court filing, they pointed out the ways Trump has taken “a broad view” in declaring what is personal and what is part of his duties as president, frequently trying to bend the rules to suit whatever he deems favorable to himself.
They cited his attempts to block Twitter users from his account, which he also uses for official presidential announcements, and his use of the presidency to personally profit from his hotels and other real estate properties.
“This is not a President who views his every word and deed as Presidential,” they wrote. “By his own confession, Trump sometimes perceives himself as acting in a purely personal capacity — and as pursuing his own private purposes — while in office.”
The court filing is the latest turn of events in Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, which Trump and his lawyers have continually attempted to derail and have unsuccessfully tried to get dismissed.
Trump and the White House accused her of lying and fabricating the incident in order to sell her book. He falsely claimed they had never met, even though there is a photo of them together, and both were prominent fixtures on the New York social scene at the time of the alleged incident.
The president asserted with no evidence whatsoever that Carroll was part of a conspiracy set up by Democrats. He also attacked her appearance, saying she “was not my type.”
Carroll sued Trump for defamation last November, arguing that her reputation as a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine had suffered because Trump’s attacks affected the trust she had built with her readers. In the lawsuit, she said Trump had “smeared her integrity, honesty, and dignity,” “inflicted emotional pain and suffering,” “damaged her reputation” and “caused substantial professional harm.”
In February, she said the magazine had fired her after nearly three decades because Trump had “dragged me through the mud.”
“I don’t blame Elle,” she wrote on Twitter. “I blame @realdonaldtrump.”
Carroll said she told two friends about the alleged incident at the time, but decided not to report it out of fear for her safety and because of the power differential between her and Trump — and like many survivors of sexual assault, she said she blamed herself for it.
She is one of more than 20 women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct. Trump has accused them of lying, and has attacked many of them personally, including by suggesting they were not physically attractive enough.
Four years ago this week, The Washington Post published the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” recording of Trump openly bragging in 2005 about sexually assaulting women.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.