The Justice Department says the issue has less to do with Trump’s “crude” language than whether his actions were carried out in performance of his presidential duties.
Even under the Biden administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Division continues to represent former President Donald Trump from a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who accused the billionaire politician of sexual assault.
According to The Washington Post, Carroll accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.
However, Carroll’s lawsuit hit a roadblock. Although Trump publicly branded Carroll a liar, it was uncertain whether his denials were made from his position as president or in a private capacity. Nevertheless, Trump insisted that the Justice Department represent him.
This legal maneuver, says the Post, would have required a judge to find that the federal tort protecting government employees from civil liability applies to sitting presidents, too.
Yet, in spite of the clear animosity between President Biden and his predecessor, it appears the Justice Department is willing to continue its defense of Trump.
“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,” wrote Brian Boynton, acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “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.”
Instead, Boynton’s brief suggested the case should center on several key issues, such as whether a sitting president should be considered an “employee of the government,” and whether Trump’s denials took place in the performance of his official duties.
In the Justice Department’s brief, Boynton and other attorneys argued that Trump’s denials—made before the media—were undoubtedly expected of him as commander-in-chief.
“Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public concern is undoubtedly part of an elected official’s job,” the brief said.
“Courts have thus consistently and repeatedly held that allegedly defamatory statements made in that context are within the scope of elected officials’ employment — including when the statements were prompted by press inquiries about the official’s private life,” the Civil Division said.
The brief further observed that, when White House reporters asked for comment on Carroll’s accusations, “their questions were posed to him in his capacity as President.”
Carroll’s attorneys, adds The Washington Post, appeared incredulous that the Justice Department was continuing to back Trump.
“[It is] truly shocking that the current Department of Justice would allow Donald Trump to get away with lying [about raping Carroll],” attorney Roberta Kaplan said in a statement.
“The DOJ’s position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward,” Kaplan said.