Donald Trump listens as Attorney General William Barr speaks into his ear.

Donald Trump’s Justice Department Is Majorly Interfering in a Lawsuit Brought by Writer Who Accused Him of Rape

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Once again, Donald Trump has gotten the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in a personal lawsuit, this time regarding the defamation suit brought against Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Last year, Carroll came forward with allegations against Trump, who she says raped her in a department store dressing room back in the 1990s. The statute of limitations for allegations of sexual assault had long run out but Carroll filed a defamation suit against Trump after he accused her of lying, saying the two had never met despite there being photographs of them together, and crudely dismissing her story as being impossible because she is “not [his] type.”

Carroll’s attorney, Robbie Kaplan, had requested an under-oath interview and DNA sample from Trump, as Carroll still has the dress she says she was wearing during the alleged assault. Trump tried to have the suit dismissed, arguing that he was immune from private lawsuits, but the judge denied that request. So instead, Trump got Attorney General Bill Barr to swoop in and take the case off his hands.

The Justice Department has filed a motion to replace Donald Trump as defendant with the U.S. government, arguing that he was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he called Carroll a liar and indicated that he would only sexually assault women he finds attractive.

According to Kaplan, the motion came on the very day Trump would have had to appeal the request for DNA.

If the government takes Trump’s place as the defendant in this case, it will be much harder for Carroll to win any damages, as the idea of “sovereign immunity” makes it basically impossible to find the federal government guilty of a crime. (As Richard Nixon put it, “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”) The case will also be moved out of state court, into federal court and rather than using his private lawyers, Trump will have all the resources of the federal government at his disposal.

“Though the law gives employees of the federal government immunity from most defamation lawsuits, legal experts said it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office,” writes the New York Times.

This also means that if Carroll does win damages, it won’t be Trump paying them, it will be us, the taxpayers. Essentially, if Trump is found guilty of lying about sexually assaulting Carroll, we all pay for it.

Kaplan railed against the idea that Trump was “acting in his official capacity as President of the United States” when he insulted and allegedly defamed Carroll.

“Even in today’s world, that argument is shocking. It offends me as a lawyer, and offends me even more as a citizen,” her statement reads. “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.”

(via Washington Post, image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.