Biden's DOJ reverses itself, will no longer defend Trump against 2019 defamation suit by columnist who alleged unproven rape

 July 15, 2023

When columnist E. Jean Carroll first sued then-President Donald Trump for defamation in 2019, the Department of Justice stepped up to defend him due to his status as an "employee" of the federal government.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the DOJ has now completely reversed itself and announced that it will no longer defend the former president against the defamation claim first lodged against him when he was still the president, CBS News reported.

That reversal appears to be based upon the outcome of a separate but related civil lawsuit decided in Carroll's favor earlier this year, as well as statements that Trump has made in regard to Carroll's disputed claims after he was no long the president.

Federal law required DOJ to defend Trump against defamation lawsuit

At issue here is a federal law known as the Westfall Act, which extends immunity from liability to personal lawsuits for federal employees if the conduct for which they are being sued occurred within the scope of their federal employment.

Carroll first sued then-President Trump for defamation in relation to his vehement denials of her disputed claims that he had raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s, and given that Trump was the president at that time and his denials could be construed as defending the interests of the office of the presidency, the DOJ declared that he was immune from Carroll's suit by way of the Westfall Act.

Yet, after Trump left office in 2021, Carroll filed her separate civil lawsuit that made substantially similar claims and, though a New York jury found that Carroll failed to prove that Trump had actually raped her, they nevertheless found his continued post-presidency denials of her unproven claims made him liable for defamation.

Since then, Carroll has gone back to her original 2019 lawsuit and amended it substantially to remove the prior unproven allegations of rape but also add in new statements of denial from Trump in an overt effort to get another bite at the apple and obtain a second judgment against the former president in the revived suit.

DOJ declines to continue to defend Trump

Now, in a letter sent Tuesday from DOJ's Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton to the attorneys for both Carroll and Trump, it was announced that, in light of a D.C. appeals court's clarification of the liability standard, "as well as new factual developments, the Department of Justice is declining to certify under the Westfall Act ... that defendant Donald J. Trump was acting within the scope of his office and employment as President of the United States when he made the statements that form the basis of the defamation claims in plaintiff’s Amended Complaint in this action."

The letter went on to explain at length the appeals court's clarification and its analysis of that ruling plus the "new factual developments" of Carroll's amended 2019 lawsuit and Trump's post-presidency denials of her allegations, all of which led to its conclusion that Trump is no longer covered under the liability immunity of the Westfall Act.

"After 'balancing and weighing the evidence,' ... from Mr. Trump’s deposition, the jury verdict in Carroll II, and the new allegations in the Amended Complaint, the Department has determined that there is no longer a sufficient basis to conclude that the former President was motivated by 'more than an insignificant' desire to serve the United States Government," Boynton wrote. "Accordingly, the Department hereby declines to issue a new Westfall Act certification."

CBS News reported that Carroll's attorney praised the DOJ's decision and said that they "look forward to trial in E Jean Carroll's original case in January 2024." Meanwhile, Trump's attorneys did not respond to a request for comment from the new outlet.

Trump fires back furiously

However, in response to the DOJ letter, former President Trump himself let loose with a trio of outraged posts to his Truth Social account on Wednesday, the first of which stated, "The DOJ will not defend me in the E. Jean Carroll civil case, which is all part of the political Witch Hunt, lawyered up by a political operative who I just beat in another case, financed by a big political funder, and 'judged' by a Clinton appointee who truly hates 'TRUMP.' The statements that I made about Carroll are all true. I didn’t Rape her (I won that at trial) and other than for this case, I have NO IDEA WHO SHE IS, WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE, OR ANYTHING ABOUT HER ..."

"The Carroll civil case against me is a Miscarriage of Justice and a total Scam. The trial was very unfair, with the other side being able to do and present virtually anything they wanted, and our side being largely and wrongfully shut down by an absolutely hostile, biased, and out of control judge. My lawyers, due to their respect for the Office of the President and the incredulity of the case, did not want me to testify, or even be at the trial …," he continued.

Trump added, "The net result of this horrible INJUSTICE, where a completely unknown to me woman made up a ridiculous story, wrote it in a book to increase publicity and sales, I correctly disputed the story and got sued for Defamation, whereupon a hostile Judge and Jury shockingly awarded a woman who I don’t know, have never known, and don’t want to know, $5,000,000, while at the same time throwing out the Fake Rape claim. WE ARE STRONGLY APPEALING THIS TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE!!!"

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