President Donald Trump's "desperation" to avoid the justice system "is a sign of weakness and fear," a lawyer for writer E. Jean Carroll on Friday told the judge presiding over her rape defamation suit against Trump.
Carroll's attorney, Joshua Matz, delivered the critique as he urged Manhattan federal Judge Lewis Kaplan to reject Trump's latest effort to stall the case pending an appeal.
Last month, the Department of Justice asked the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Kaplan's decision barring the department from swapping the U.S. government into the case as the defendant.
That bid to halt proceedings came from Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz on Thursday evening, well after the Trump team knew that they had a conference scheduled with the judge and Carroll's lawyers to discuss next steps in the case.
Trump's lawyers say that the appeal should automatically suspend proceedings in the civil case, where Carroll says Trump defamed her by claiming she was lying and motivated by money when she said he raped her in a department store changing room in the 1990s.
But Matz countered in a teleconference with the judge Friday morning that the move from Trump's legal team is only the latest in a long line of cynical delay tactics.
"Mr. Trump sure seems desperate to avoid the justice system," Matz said. "That desperation is a sign of weakness and fear."
"In fact, Mr. Trump is so desperate here that his counsel have undertaken the kind of gamesmanship that gives the rest of us lawyers a bad name," Matz said, arguing that the stall tactics should weigh on Kaplan's decision whether to grant Trump's request.
Matz noted that in addition to a variety of efforts to delay proceedings in the case, the Justice Department had waited for months to seek to replace Trump as a defendant. Additionally, DOJ lawyers had refused to make oral arguments in that bid at a court hearing, Matz said.
Carroll herself had previously knocked the delays, writing on Twitter last month: "The longer @realDonaldTrump delays, the harder he will fall."
In a statement later Friday, Carroll said, "With each step forward in my lawsuit against Donald Trump, Trump's lawyers try to drag the case three steps back."
"I won't be silenced, and I look forward to having my lawyers respond to Trump's latest attempt to deny me my day in court," she said in the statement.
Carroll, a former Elle magazine advice columnist and Hunter S. Thompson biographer, sued Trump in state court in Manhattan in November 2019 for his statements.
That case proceeded in state court, where a judge made rulings that set the stage for Trump to be deposed and to be compelled to give a DNA sample to be checked against a dress that Carroll has said she was wearing on the day that he allegedly raped her.
Matz told Kaplan on Friday's call that the proceedings should not be entirely frozen, but he suggested that Carroll's team could temporarily pause their efforts to seek depositions and the DNA sample from Trump.
In a statement after the conference, Matz again said that Trump's apparent desperation to delay is telling "for someone who has so emphatically denied sexually assaulting Ms. Carroll, and has so brazenly slandered her for daring to speak up."
The Justice Department in September abruptly had the case removed to federal court in Manhattan, where it argued that the government and not Trump should be the defendant in the case because he was acting in his role as a government official or employee when he made the statements.
Kaplan in October ruled that Trump must remain the defendant, rejecting the DOJ's bid to substitute itself into Carroll's case.
"The President of the United States is not an employee of the Government within the meaning of the relevant statutes," Kaplan wrote in a 59-page ruling released in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Oct. 27.
"Even if he were such an employee, President Trump's allegedly defamatory statements concerning Ms. Carroll would not have been within the scope of his employment," Kaplan wrote.
In November, the Justice Department appealed that ruling.
But the DOJ did not appear in Friday's teleconference with Kaplan — an absence that appeared to surprise the judge.
"Is there counsel for the Justice Department on this call?" Kaplan asked after requesting that the agency state its arguments, only to be met with an awkward silence.
A lawyer noted to the judge that the Justice Department appeared to be respecting his ruling that its attorneys no longer were to be involved in the case.
Kaplan on the call granted Matz's request to file a legal brief opposing the effort to delay the case, to which Trump's lawyers will be allowed to respond.
Trump has a history of using a delay strategy in other legal cases.
The president for more than a year has fought efforts by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to obtain his tax records from an accounting firm as part of a criminal investigation of his company. Trump currently is asking the Supreme Court, which already ruled against him once in that case, to block the DA's subpoena based on new arguments that lower federal courts have already rejected.
The Trump Organization and Eric Trump recently tried to delay the president's son being deposed by the New York Attorney General's office as part of a civil investigation into how the company stated the values of certain real estate assets.
Eric Trump asked a judge to postpone the questioning session until after the presidential election but was denied that request. He was deposed in October.