Donald Trump could soon have the United States Department of Justice defending him against a defamation suit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll if a motion entered on Tuesday is accepted by the judge overseeing the case.
Dan Berman of CNN wrote that if Trump does get a defense team that is funded by the taxpayers, it would likely be unprecedented. Caroll has accused Trump of committing sexual assault against her. The administration is claiming that despite the alleged assault happening when he was a private citizen, the comments he made that led to the lawsuit happened while he was in office.
When Trump was asked about the claims that he sexually assaulted the woman in the dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman’s, he said the allegations were totally false. He also claimed he’d never met her in his life.
The potential change of attorney for Trump isn’t just a matter of having someone else argue his side. If the Justice Department is allowed to make this move, it could mean an end to the suit, almost immediately.
CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law school professor Steve Vladeck said the case might have to be thrown out because the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.
“President Trump was acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States at the time of the incidents out of which the Plaintiff’s defamation claim arose. 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 filing stated.
The DOJ went on to claim that because Trump was acting in his official duties, it was required under existing statutes to intervene.
While legal analyst Elie Honig told Berman the argument is a “wild stretch,” a White House official said Tuesday’s move has precedent under the Federal Tort Claims Act. They said the case belongs in federal court and the United States needed to be named as the defendant.
The filing is the latest effort by Trump to get the suit thrown out. Last month, his defense team attempted to get it thrown out in district court, but a New York-based judge determined it had merit and could proceed.
Legal analysts said that while the DOJ entering the picture could be the end of the lawsuit, it’s not a guarantee that the presiding judge will allow the change.