The Justice Department has reversed its previous position and stated that former President Donald Trump can be held personally liable for remarks he made about columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of rape. The department filed a letter with the judge presiding over Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, stating that it no longer believes Trump was motivated by a desire to serve the United States when making his statements.
Previously, the department had agreed with Trump’s attorneys that he was protected from the lawsuit by the Westfall Act, which grants federal employees absolute immunity from lawsuits arising from conduct within the scope of their employment. However, the recent letter indicates a change in their stance.
In May, a jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages after finding that Trump had sexually abused her in 1996 at a Bergdorf Goodman store in midtown Manhattan. Furthermore, they concluded that Trump had defamed Carroll with his comments about her and her claims. While the jury believed Carroll had been sexually abused, they did not support her rape claim.
This trial stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Carroll last November under a temporary provision in New York state law that allowed victims of sexual abuse to make civil claims even for past attacks. The government’s letter now incorporates the jury’s verdict, Trump’s October deposition, and additional claims made by Carroll regarding defamatory comments made by Trump during a CNN town hall following the verdict.
Defamation Lawsuit Against Donald Trump Gains Momentum
The ongoing defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump has received a significant boost as the Department of Justice (DOJ) reconsiders its position on the matter. This development has revived the case, which had been delayed due to appeals regarding Trump’s liability for statements made during his presidency.
The trial is now scheduled for next January and revolves around comments Trump made in 2019 in response to allegations made by writer E. Jean Carroll in her memoir. Carroll accused Trump of sexually assaulting her. Her lawyer, Robbie Kaplan, described the DOJ’s submission as one of the final hurdles before the lawsuit can proceed to trial.
Kaplan expressed gratitude for the reconsideration, highlighting her belief that Trump’s defamatory remarks stemmed from personal animosity rather than his role as President. She stated, “We have always believed that Donald Trump made his defamatory statements about our client in June 2019 out of personal animus, ill will, and spite, and not as President of the United States.”
As of now, lawyers representing Trump have not provided an immediate response.
Earlier in the day, Carroll’s legal team filed papers challenging a counterclaim made by Trump’s lawyers in the defamation lawsuit. The counterclaim alleged that Carroll had defamed Trump through subsequent comments she made after a May verdict. The lawyers argued that this counterclaim was an attempt by Trump to spin his loss at trial.
Furthermore, they emphasized that the sexual abuse for which Trump was found liable was considered equivalent to rape under certain criminal statutes. They noted that if it had been a criminal claim, he would be required to register as a sex offender for life.
For context, it is important to note that The Associated Press typically avoids naming individuals who claim to be victims of sexual assault unless they choose to come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.