Biden's Justice Department moves to defend Trump in defamation suit from accuser E. Jean Carroll

Dennis Romero
President Donald Trump rape accuser E. Jean Carroll and her lawyers arrive for her hearing at federal court during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the New York, October 21, 2020.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

The Biden administration's Justice Department filed court documents Monday that seek to defend former President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit.

President Joe Biden, on the campaign trail in 2020, criticized Trump for using the department like his own "private law firm" in multiple instances, including in the case of E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s.

In September, Trump's Department of Justice filed documents seeking to represent Trump against Carroll's claim in federal court.

Trump has denied Carroll's claim of sexual assault at a department store, saying "she's not my type" and it "never happened."

Carroll, a one-time columnist for Elle magazine who included the allegations in a 2019 book, filed a defamation suit in 2019. In October, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the Trump administration's attempt to have the Department of Justice serve represent him.

On Monday, the Justice Department argued in a brief filed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that Trump should be represented by the department, as nearly everything he said and did as president was a matter of government action.

"Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public concern is undoubtedly part of an elected official's job," the brief states. "Courts have thus consistently and repeatedly held that allegedly defamatory statements made in that context are within the scope of elected officials' employment —including when the statements were prompted by press inquiries about the official's private life."

The Justice lawyers wrote that Trump was "crude and disrespectful" in questioning Carroll's credibility, and that comments attacking her appearance, impugning her motives and implying she had made false accusations "were without question unnecessary and inappropriate." But, they said, they "all pertained to the denial of wrongdoing."

Carroll responded in a statement, "As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault — the DOJ is trying to stop me from having that same right. I am angry! I am offended! I and my attorneys Robbie Kaplan and Joshua Matz are confident that Judge Kaplan's decision will be affirmed by the Second Circuit."

Roberta Kaplan, E. Jean Carroll's lawyer, said in a statement, "The DOJ's position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward. Calling a woman you sexually assaulted a 'liar,' a 'slut,' or 'not my type,' as Donald Trump did here, is not the official act of an American president."