Sept. 9 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday moved to replace President Donald Trump’s lawyers in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll.
Although the case involves allegations by Carroll that Trump sexually assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s, long before Trump took office, lawyers for the Justice Department said he was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied the allegations and that he ever met Carroll.
“Indeed, when providing the challenged statements, the president was speaking to or responding to inquiries from the press, much as the elected officials in the cases cited above were speaking to the press or making other public statements at the time of their challenged actions,” the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department lawyers cited the Federal Tort Claims Act that gives federal employees immunity from lawsuits and would allow them to take over the case from Trump’s private lawyers and move it from state court to federal court.
Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, described the move as “shocking” and accused Trump of seeking to delay the case after a federal judge last month ruled it would be allowed to go forward.
“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,” said Kaplan.
Carroll accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in late 1995 or early 1996 in her memoir and Trump denied ever meeting her, saying she made the allegations in an effort to sell books.
She filed the lawsuit in November, saying Trump’s statements “inflicted emotional pain and suffering, they damaged her reputation and they caused substantial professional harm.”