The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday appealed a federal judge’s decision that kept President Donald Trump as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who claims he raped her two decades ago.
Kaplan’s ruling effectively saved Carroll’s lawsuit from dismissal.
Attorney General William Barr has said that if the government was swapped in as a defendant, as he wanted it to be, then the case would be tossed out because the government had not waived sovereign immunity, as the protection from the government being sued is known as.
The Justice Department has argued that Trump was acting as a government employee when he said Carroll was lying and motivated by money with her allegation that he attacked her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in 1995 or 1996.
Kaplan flatly rejected that argument.
“The President of the United States is not an employee of the Government within the meaning of the relevant statutes,” Kaplan wrote in a 59-page ruling released in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Oct. 27.
“Even if he were such an employee, President Trump’s allegedly defamatory statements concerning Ms. Carroll would not have been within the scope of his employment,” Kaplan wrote.
“Accordingly, the motion to substitute the United States in place of President Trump is denied.”
Carroll had tweeted after the ruling, “This win is for every woman in the country!”
The Justice Department’s appeal is being filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, according to its filing in Manhattan federal court.
Carroll’s lawyer Robbie Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, said, “We are not at all surprised that the current Department of Justice, which filed its motion to intervene in E Jean Carroll’s case at the request of the White House, is appealing Judge Kaplan’s decision.”
“From the very start of this case, Donald Trump’s number one goal has been to avoid discovery and cause delay,” Kaplan said in a statement.
“It remains to be seen whether the new Attorney General will agree that Trump was acting within the scope of his employment as President when he defamed our client. In any event, we are confident that the Second Circuit will affirm the District Court’s comprehensive and well-reasoned opinion.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Carroll’s lawsuit was pending in New York state court, where Trump was represented by private attorneys, for nearly a year before the Justice Department intervened and had the case removed to federal court, as it sought to substitute the government for the president as a defendant.
The department’s move came shortly after rulings by a state judge that would have compelled Trump to submit to questioning in a deposition by Carroll’s lawyers.
Trump also would have to submit to a DNA test to see if his genetic material is on a dress that Carroll has said she wore during the alleged attack, according to the state court rulings.
Carroll had written the “Ask E. Jean” advice column in Elle magazine for more than a quarter century before the magazine fired her in early 2020.
Her past writing for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” garnered her an Emmy nomination.
She is also the author of a biography about gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, as well as a book that included her claim about Trump, “What Do We Need Men For: A Modest Proposal.”
Carroll first made her claim of being raped by Trump in a New York magazine article published in July 2019.
Trump responded by claiming he had “never met this person” and also said that Carroll was trying “to get publicity” and “sell a book” with her allegations.
But photographs show Trump greeting Carroll at an event some time before the encounter happened.
Multiple other women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. He has denied each of their accusations.
But shortly before the 2016 presidential election, a 2005 recording of the show “Access Hollywood” surfaced and revealed Trump bragging about grabbing women‘s genitals without their consent.