MANHATTAN (CN) — In a highly unusual move on Tuesday, the Department of Justice moved to swap the U.S. government for President Donald Trump in a lawsuit filed by his rape accuser E. Jean Carroll.
The government justified the maneuver by arguing that Trump had been acting within his White House duties by denying allegations that he sexually assaulted the famed New York columnist in the dressing room of the department store Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s.
“President Trump was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the plaintiff’s claim arose,” the 4-page motion states.
Shortly after filing the motion, the government opened a federal docket captioned E. Jean Carroll v. United States of America seeking to displace state lawsuit E. Jean Carroll v. Donald J. Trump, effectively putting possible liabilities on taxpayers instead of the president.
First filed last November, Carroll’s lawsuit followed a string of denials to her accusations.
“Number one, she’s not my type,” Trump told The Hill on June 24, 2019. “Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?”
Trump lost his bid to put the case on hold a little more than a month ago, and Carroll skewered the president’s attempts to delay her case as increasingly desperate.
“President Trump knows that I told the truth when I said that he had sexually assaulted me in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman,” Carroll wrote in a statement. “He also knows that he was lying when he said that he had never met me before and that I ‘wasn’t his type.’ Today’s actions demonstrate that Trump will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government, to block discovery from going forward in my case before the upcoming election to try to prevent a jury from ever deciding which one of us is lying.”
Her attorneys have requested that Trump provide a DNA sample to see whether his genetic material is on the dress Carroll said that she wore during the incident.
“But Trump underestimates me, and he also has underestimated the American people,” Carroll said.
Her attorney Roberta Kaplan from the firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP slammed the Justice Department’s bid as a delay tactic to postpone imminent, and potentially embarrassing, pre-election discovery.
“Trump was soon going to be required to produce documents, provide a DNA sample, and sit for a deposition,” Kaplan said. “Realizing that there was no valid basis to appeal that decision in the New York courts, on the very day that he would have been required to appeal, Trump instead enlisted the U.S. Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers and argue that when he lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she ‘wasn’t his type,’ he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States. Even in today’s world, that argument is shocking.”
Under Attorney General William Barr, the Justice Department repeatedly inserted itself into the president’s battles, both directly and indirectly.
When Congress sought Trump’s financial information from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, the department intervened in that case all the way up to the Supreme Court, arguing that legislators failed to show the records “demonstrably critical” to their plans. Barr has faced regular criticism for giving soft treatment to Trump’s allies, from former General Michael Flynn to Roger Stone, the self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” convicted of witness intimidation.
For Carroll’s lawyer Kaplan, this latest wrinkle is beyond the pale.
“It offends me as a lawyer, and offends me even more as a citizen,” she wrote. “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.”
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.