HomeTop StoriesTrump's Comments About E. Jean Carroll While President Were Not "Work Related"

Trump’s Comments About E. Jean Carroll While President Were Not “Work Related”

NEW YORK — The Justice Department said Tuesday that former President Donald Trump should not be immune from a libel lawsuit over comments he made about writer E. Jean Carroll when he was president.

The new lawsuit — which reverses a legal position first passed under Trump and then upheld under President Joe Biden — paves the way for the lawsuit to be tried in January. It would be Trump’s second time facing Carroll in less than a year.

Carroll is suing Trump for denying her claim that he sexually assaulted her in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. In 2019, while occupying the White House, Trump said the incident “never happened” and said Carroll was “not my type”.

Earlier this year, a jury found Trump liable for sexual assault for the alleged attack and for libel over additional comments he made after his presidency.

The lawsuit over the 2019 comments raised special legal issues because, typically, if a federal employee is charged with conduct related to his official duties, the Justice Department may rely on a federal law and in the role of the defendant, essentially immunizing the employee against personal liability. Had the Justice Department replaced Trump as the defendant in the second Carroll case, it would have ended the lawsuit, since the government itself cannot be sued for libel.

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The Justice Department initially attempted to do just that. About a year after Carroll filed her 2019 lawsuit, Trump’s DOJ attempted to replace itself as the defendant. After he left office, DOJ officials continued to make the argument that Trump was acting “within the scope of employment” and thus should not go on trial for his 2019 comments.

But in a letter filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, the Justice Department said it has now determined that Trump was not “sufficiently driven by purpose to serve the United States government” when he made the alleged defamatory made statements about Carroll.

“While the statements themselves were made in a work context, the allegations that prompted the statements related to a purely personal incident: an alleged sexual assault that occurred decades before Mr. Trump’s presidency,” the deputy assistant attorney general wrote. Brian Boynton.

He added: “That assault was clearly not work related.”

The Justice Department also noted the outcome of the jury trial earlier this year, saying the result “supports the conclusion that Mr. Mr Trump.” Trump is appealing the verdict and the award of $5 million in damages.

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On Tuesday, Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for Carroll, said: “We are grateful that the Justice Department has reconsidered its position. We have always believed that Donald Trump made his defamatory statements about our client in June 2019 out of personal animosity, ill will and resentment, and not as President of the United States. Now that one of the last obstacles has been removed, we look forward to the trial of E. Jean Carroll’s original case in January 2024.”

Trump attorney Alina Habba did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment beyond what was stated in the letter.

The Justice Department’s decision is the latest setback in Trump’s efforts to sink the case. Last month, the judge overseeing the Carroll trial — and who presided over the trial earlier this year — rejected the former president’s attempt to use “presidential immunity” to protect himself from civil suits.

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