Biden Justice Department Seeks to Defend Trump in Suit Over Rape Denial

During the presidential marketing campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr., then the Democratic candidate, slammed his opponent, Donald J. Trump, for a extremely uncommon authorized transfer: bringing in the Justice Department to symbolize him in a defamation lawsuit stemming from a decades-old rape allegation.

At one in all their debates, Mr. Biden accused Mr. Trump of treating the Justice Department like his “own law firm” in the go well with, filed in opposition to him by the author E. Jean Carroll. “What’s that all about?” he sarcastically requested.

But on Monday evening, almost eight months after Mr. Biden’s assault, his personal Justice Department basically adopted Mr. Trump’s place, arguing that he couldn’t be sued for defamation as a result of he had made the supposedly offending statements as a part of his official duties as president.

In a short filed with a federal appeals courtroom in New York, the Justice Department acknowledged that Mr. Trump’s remarks about Ms. Carroll have been “crude and disrespectful,” however the division additionally claimed that the Trump administration’s arguments have been right — a place that would lead to Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit being dismissed.

Mr. Biden has repeatedly stated he desires to restore the Justice Department’s conventional independence from the White House — a stance that has been echoed by a number of of his high picks for the division’s management.

Even so, the late-night submitting caught many, together with Ms. Carroll’s legal professionals, unexpectedly and marked one other twist in a protracted authorized battle.

That dispute started in November 2019 when Ms. Carroll, a longtime columnist for Elle journal, sued Mr. Trump, claiming he had lied by publicly denying he had ever met her, after she had accused him of rape months earlier. In a e book excerpt revealed in New York journal that June, Ms. Carroll wrote that Mr. Trump had thrown her up in opposition to the wall of a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale division retailer in Manhattan, in late 1995 or early 1996. Then, she claimed, Mr. Trump pulled down her tights, opened his pants and compelled himself on her.

Shortly after the excerpt was revealed, Mr. Trump stated in an Oval Office interview that the assault had by no means occurred and that he couldn’t have raped Ms. Carroll as a result of she was not his “type.” According to the lawsuit, Mr. Trump additionally issued an official assertion accusing Ms. Carroll of mendacity concerning the alleged assault.

For a number of months, the defamation go well with wound its means via a state courtroom in New York. But then final September, one month after a state decide issued a ruling that probably opened the door to Mr. Trump sitting for a deposition earlier than the election, the legal professional common, William P. Barr, stepped into the case. In a extremely uncommon transfer, Mr. Barr transferred the case to federal courtroom and substituted the federal authorities for Mr. Trump because the defendant.

Federal regulation forbids authorities staff from being sued for defamation, which means that if the transfer was profitable, Ms. Carroll’s declare can be dismissed.

Mr. Barr’s transfer raised the query of whether or not Mr. Trump had in truth made his feedback about Ms. Carroll as a authorities worker — a place that Ms. Carroll’s legal professionals roundly rejected. “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,” the legal professionals stated in a submitting final yr.

In October, the primary federal decide to think about the case, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, agreed with Ms. Carroll, blocking Mr. Barr’s transfer and deciding that the go well with may proceed in opposition to Mr. Trump in his personal capability. Mr. Trump’s feedback involved occasions that had occurred “several decades before he took office,” Judge Kaplan dominated, and had “no relationship to the official business of the United States.”

Before Mr. Trump left workplace, the Justice Department appealed Judge Kaplan’s ruling, and plenty of authorized observers predicted new legal professional common, beneath Mr. Biden, would drop the Trump-era claims.

The transient filed on Monday evening was the primary time the Biden administration’s Justice Department, now led by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, weighed in on the difficulty. In the transient, division legal professionals stated that when Mr. Trump had denied raping Ms. Carroll, via the White House press workplace or in statements to reporters in the Oval Office and on the White House garden, he was performing throughout the scope of his workplace.

“Elected public officials can — and often must — address allegations regarding personal wrongdoing that inspire doubt about their suitability for office,” the division legal professionals argued, including, “Officials do not step outside the bounds of their office simply because they are addressing questions regarding allegations about their personal lives.”

Ms. Carroll’s lead lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, reacting to the brand new submitting, stated that as “horrific” because the alleged rape was, it was “truly shocking that the current Department of Justice would allow Donald Trump to get away with lying about it.”

Ms. Carroll, in her personal assertion, stated she was offended and offended.

“As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault,” she stated, “the D.O.J. is trying to stop me from having that same right.”