The Justice Department is intervening to act as Trump's defense in a defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges that Trump raped her.
The Department of Justice on Tuesday said it will serve as Donald Trump's defense counsel in a defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges that Trump raped her, the Washington Post reported. That means taxpayers are now footing the bill of the case.
In a filing on Tuesday, the DOJ claimed Donald Trump was "acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States" when he denied the rape allegation from journalist E. Jean Carroll, and thus the department should take over the case.
Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump in November 2019, after Trump denied her rape allegation by saying Carrol was "lying" and that he "never met" her.
The defamation case had been proceeding in state court in New York. A judge ruled against Trump's effort to delay the case last month, allowing Carrol to obtain Trump's DNA as well as depose him in an effort to try to prove her allegations.
But the DOJ's intervention could delay those proceedings, allowing Trump to avoid having damning information go public in the middle of his already flailing reelection campaign.
Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said the DOJ's intervention is an attempt by Trump to have the case dismissed altogether.
"Just to be clear, DOJ's argument that Trump was acting 'within the scope of his employment' when he defamed E. Jean Carroll is not an effort to *take over* defense of the suit; it's an effort to have the suit *dismissed*—because the government itself can't be sued for defamation," Vladeck tweeted.
But Vladeck said the DOJ's intervention is suspect.
"DOJ is allowed—indeed, it is *required*—to take over tort suits against federal officials for torts committed within the scope of their employment. But how is claiming that Carroll lied about a decades-old rape allegation within the scope of Trump’s employment *as President*?!?" Vladeck said.
Carroll, for her part, condemned the DOJ's move to act as Trump's defense attorneys.
"TRUMP HURLS BILL BARR AT ME," Carroll tweeted. "Just when @realDonaldTrump is required to produce documents and DNA in discovery, he sics the DOJ on us. THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED!! My attorney, @kaplanrobbie, and I are happy to TAKE THEM ALL ON!"
Carroll's attorney, Robbie Kaplan, went on to say in a statement that the DOJ's argument that Trump was "acting in his official capacity" when he called Carroll a liar 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."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.