MANHATTAN (CN) — Attorneys for the columnist who says President Donald Trump raped her are firing back at the Department of Justice’s claim that Trump was acting under the scope of his duties when he denied her story.
“There is not a single person in the United States — not the president and not anyone else — whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted,” attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote in the opening salvo of a 45-page legal brief. “That should not be a controversial proposition. Remarkably, however, the Justice Department seeks to prove it wrong.”
The opposition memo was filed late Monday in the Southern District of New York, where E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case migrated after the Justice Department intervened on the president’s behalf.
“Trump’s defamatory lies included assertions that Carroll had falsely accused other men of rape; that she was lying about him as part of a secret political conspiracy; that she had fabricated her accusation to sell books; and that he had never met her (despite a photograph of them together),” the memorandum states. “Trump also remarked, ‘she’s not my type.’ These are the statements that the Justice Department asks the court to find that Trump uttered within the scope of his duties as president.”
Carroll alleges that Trump raped her in the dressing room of the department store Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s.
Her attorneys have requested that Trump provide a DNA sample to see whether his genetic material is on the dress Carroll kept from the alleged incident, and a judge previously rejected Trump’s bid to delay discovery.
The Justice Department’s maneuver could gum up the process further, but Carroll’s attorneys say that holding public office is no defense to defamation.
“No legal authority holds that elected officials may — within the scope of their federal employment — defame anyone, at any time, for any reason, no matter how personal their motives or statements, so long as a journalist overhears them,” their latest filing states.
Citing a 1980 case against a then-supervisor of the small New York town of Peru, the brief continues: “Public office does not carry with it a license to defame at will, for even the highest officers exist to serve the public, not to denigrate its members.”
But Carroll’s legal team added that the same principle holds especially true for the highest office in the United States.
“If accepted, the Justice Department’s extreme position would distort the law and dishonor the Office of the Presidency,” they wrote.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under Attorney General William Barr, the Justice Department has been suspected or seen to be inserting 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. The Justice Department later had to issue a correction to an unusual press release issued reporting an investigation into allegations that nine military ballots cast for Trump had been “discarded.” The true number was seven, and prosecutors did not allege malfeasance for any of them.