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Biden's Justice Department says it should defend Trump in defamation lawsuit over sex assault denial

E. Jean Carroll Donald Trump
Posted at 6:46 AM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 10:50:24-04

In a legal brief filed on Monday, President Joe Biden's Justice Department said it should be permitted to serve as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who says she was raped by former President Donald Trump.

Monday's brief was an appeal of an October decision from a U.S. District Court that said the Trump Justice Department could not serve as the defendant in the case.

Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll filed the defamation suit against Trump in 2019. Carroll has claimed Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. Trump has responded to those claims by claiming that Carroll was lying to sell books, at one point adding that "she's not my type."

The Justice Department's filing on Monday continues the argument made by Trump's attorney general, William Barr. Under Barr, the Justice Department had argued that because a president is a government employee and that the president's public comments are a function of the job, the federal government should protect the president in such a case.

In October, a district judge rejected the Justice Department's attempt to replace Trump as the defendant in the lawsuit.

"Then-President Trump's response to Ms. Carroll's serious allegations of sexual assault included statements that questioned her credibility in terms that were crude and disrespectful," Justice Department lawyers wrote in Monday's brief. "But this case does not concern whether Mr. Trump's response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll's allegations."

In a statement to Politico, the White House said that it played no role in the decision.

"This is in active litigation, and so we refer you to the Department of Justice concerning its court filings," White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told Politico. "The White House was not consulted by DOJ on the decision to file this brief or its contents. While we are not going to comment on this ongoing litigation, the American people know well that President Biden and his team have utterly different standards from their predecessors for what qualify as acceptable statements."

"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," Carroll said in a statement to NBC News. "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."