The Biden administration’s Justice Department on Monday filed court documents to defend former President Donald Trump in a libel lawsuit.
President Joe Biden criticized Trump during the election campaign last year for using the department as his own “private law firm” on several occasions, including in the case of E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s.
In September, Trump’s Justice Department filed documents to represent Trump against Carroll’s lawsuit in federal court.
Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation of sexual assault at a department store, saying “she’s not my type” and that it “never happened.”
Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist who included the allegations in a 2019 book, filed a defamation suit in 2019. In October, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to be represented by the Ministry of Justice.
The Justice Department argued in a brief filed Monday at the U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals in New York that it should represent Trump, because almost everything he said and did as president fell under government action.
“Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public interest is undoubtedly part of the job of an elected official,” said the brief. “The courts have thus constantly and on several occasions ruled that the allegedly defamatory statements made in this context fell within the employment of elected officials, including when the statements were motivated by press inquiries into the civil servant’s private life.”
Justice Department attorneys wrote that Trump was “rude and disrespectful” in questioning Carroll’s credibility and that comments attacking her appearance, challenging her motives and suggesting that she had made false accusations “were wrong. no unnecessary and inappropriate doubts ”. But, they said, they “were all about denial of wrongdoing.”
Carroll responded in a statement: “As women across the country stand up and hold men responsible for assault – the GM is trying to keep me from having the same right. I’m angry! I’m offended! Me and my lawyers Robbie Kaplan and Joshua Matz are confident that Judge Kaplan’s ruling will be upheld by Circuit Two. “
Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan said in a statement: “The Justice Department’s position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong because it would give federal officials the free license to cover up private sexual misconduct. by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward. Calling a woman you’ve sexually assaulted a “liar”, “bitch” or “not my type”, as Donald Trump has done here, is not the official act of an American president. “
Trump’s legal team also responded to the Justice Department’s ruling, saying the lawsuit “must be dismissed as part of a simple enforcement of Congress’ decision not to waive sovereign libel immunity.” .
“This is not a case of an uninvited president randomly targeting a citizen. On the contrary, Carroll, a public figure, accused Trump of a terrible misconduct 20 years earlier in a book and magazine article she was seeking maximum publicity for, ”they said. added in court documents. “He denied her accusations in precisely the way she expected. Soon after, she sued him for libel.”
Colin Sheeley, Julie goldstein, Kurt chirbas and The Associated Press contributed.