President Donald Trump must remain a defendant in a lawsuit accusing the writer E. Jean Carroll of defaming after she alleged he raped her in the mid-1990s, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge Lewis Kaplan dismissed the Department of Justice's last-minute efforts to replace Trump in the lawsuit.
If the DOJ had succeeded in replacing Trump as a defendant, the government – and thus US taxpayers – would have been liable for any financial damage to Carroll.
The DOJ argued that the president was serving as a government employee when he said Carroll was lying and was motivated by money, claiming he attacked her in a locker room at a New York department store.
For this reason, the DOJ had argued, the government should be the culprit in Carroll's lawsuit, not the president.
Kaplan flatly denied this argument.
"The President of the United States is not an employee of the government within the meaning of the relevant law," wrote Kaplan in a 59-page judgment published in the US District Court in Manhattan.
"Even if he were such an employee, the allegedly defamatory statements made by President Trump regarding Ms. Carroll would not have fallen within the scope of his appointment. Accordingly, the motion to replace the United States in place of President Trump is denied."
The verdict came days after an abandoned trial in which a DOJ attorney was expelled from the courthouse due to New York coronavirus rules. The attorney then refused to argue the government's claim over the phone.
The decision is also made a week before election day. Trump faces a major challenge in his bid for a second term from Democratic candidate Joe Biden, the former vice president.
"This victory is for every woman in the country!" Carroll wrote in a tweet after the verdict was published.
A DOJ spokeswoman did not immediately respond when asked whether the division would appeal the ruling. If the judge's decision is certain, the department is also prohibited from defending Trump in this case.
The department attempted to intervene in the case last month, nearly a year after Caroll's lawsuit was filed in New York State Court and only after the White House asked to do so, according to Attorney General William Barr.
The DOJ's move followed the rulings of a state judge who would have forced Trump to undergo questioning by Carroll's attorneys and undergo a DNA test to see if his genetic material was on a dress that Carroll said she wore during the alleged attack.
In a statement, Carroll said: "When I was talking about what Donald Trump did to me in a department store locker room, I spoke out against a person. When Donald Trump called me a liar and denied ever meeting me, he spoke not on behalf of the United States. "
"I'm glad Judge Kaplan recognized these fundamental truths. As the judge recognized today, the question of whether President Trump raped me in a department store twenty years ago is at the heart of this lawsuit. We can finally answer that question come back and bring out the truth. "
Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan said in a statement: "We are very pleased with the judge's decision."
"The simple truth is that President Trump defamed our client for being brave enough to reveal that he sexually assaulted her and that brutal, personal attacks cannot be attributed to the presidential office," said the attorney. who is not related to the judge.
"We look forward to advancing the E. Jean Carroll libel case against Donald Trump in his personal capacity in federal court," added the attorney.
Carroll had written the "Ask E. Jean" column in Elle magazine for 26 years before the magazine released it in early 2020. The magazine said it was a business decision that had nothing to do with politics.
She once wrote for "Saturday Night Live," where her work was nominated for an Emmy, and has written a biography of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and a book called "What Do We Need," which covers her claim Trump abstained from men for: A humble proposal. "
After Carroll first claimed in a July 2019 article in New York Magazine that Trump raped her in a locker room in the Bergdorf Goodman store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, the president issued a statement saying he had "this person never met ". Trump also said that Carroll's account was an attempt to "advertise" and "sell a book".
Photos show Trump greeting Carroll at an event well before the encounter.
The author said the attack took place "in the fall of 1995 or in the spring of 1996".
At the time, Trump was married to his second wife, Marla Maples.
Judge Kaplan's ruling determined that the United States government cannot be sued for monetary damages based on a concept known as sovereign immunity unless the government specifically agrees to be sued under the terms of a law known as the Federal Tort Claims Act.
"The FTCA clears claims for damages for negligence and certain other civil misconducts by government employees in the course of their employment," the judge stated.
He noted, however, that "the FTCA specifically excludes libel and defamation cases from United States consent to be sued."
"So if this is really a lawsuit against the United States, it's a lawsuit against which the United States does not appear to have waived its sovereign immunity," which would mean that Carroll's case may have to be dismissed immediately.
The question then arises as to whether "Trump is an" employee of the government "in the sense of the FTCA and whether his statements about Ms. Carroll are" in the context of his employment ".
"The answer to both questions is & # 39; No & # 39;" wrote Judge Kaplan.
"While the president has all of the executive power of the United States, he is not an" employee "for the purposes of the FTCA," the judge wrote.
Kaplan said the legal definition of an employee "does not include presidents".
"And even if the president were an employee under this law, his testimony about Ms. Carroll would not fall within the scope of his appointment under the law of the competent jurisdiction, which is Washington, D.C., for the reasons explained below," the judge wrote.
Kaplan noted that Trump's "comments related to an alleged sexual assault that occurred several decades before he took office and that the allegations were unrelated to official business in the United States."
The president lost several lawsuits in New York in the past few months.
In one case, a federal judge denied efforts to exclude Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from enforcing a grand jury subpoena for receiving Trump's income tax return from an accounting firm. Trump plans to ask the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the subpoena ruling.
Vance is conducting a criminal investigation into the President's firm, the Trump Organization, into the manner in which two women who claimed to have had sex with Trump made hush money payments. According to court records, Vance may also be investigating fraud and tax crimes related to the company's valuation of real estate assets.
In another case, the Trump Organization lost an offer to delay the filing of President Eric's son in an investigation by the New York Attorney General into the valuation of Trump-owned properties for tax and other purposes.
Trump has been repeatedly charged with sexual misconduct by several women.
He has denied all of their allegations.
But just before the 2016 presidential election, a 2005 recording of the Access Hollywood show showed Trump bragging about grabbing women's genitals without her consent.