JUDGE TRUMP NOT A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE
Judge rejects Justice Dept. bid to short circuit defamation case brought by woman who accused Trump of rape
JUDGE TRUMP NOT A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE IN LAWSUIT
A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the Justice Department’s bid to make the U.S. government the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her several years ago, paving the way for the case to again proceed.
In a 59-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote that Trump did not qualify as a federal “employee” under federal law, nor was he acting “within the scope of his employment” when he denied during interviews in 2019 that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store.
Carroll sued Trump over that denial in New York in November, and last month, the Justice Department moved the case to federal court and asked a judge to substitute the U.S. government as the defendant in place of Trump. The department argued Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he disputed Carroll’s allegations.
The maneuver was a first step in a bid to short circuit the case. If the judge had done what the Justice Department asked, government lawyers could then have invoked the notion of “sovereign immunity” — which prohibits lawsuits against the government — to end the case.
THE JUDGE SOUNDED PRETTY CLEAR
“The President of the United States is not an ’employee of the Government’ within the meaning of the relevant statutes,” the judge wrote. “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.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Carroll, said she was “very pleased that the federal court interpreted the plain text of Federal Tort Claims Act as not covering President Trump’s false statements about our client.”
“The simple truth is that President Trump defamed our client because she was brave enough to reveal that he had sexually assaulted her, and that brutal, personal attack cannot be attributed to the Office of the President,” she said, adding that Carroll’s team looked forward to proceeding with the case in federal court.
Carroll said in a statement: “When I spoke out about what Donald Trump did to me in a department store dressing room, I was speaking out against an individual. When Donald Trump called me a liar and denied that he had ever met me, he was not speaking on behalf of the United States. I am happy that Judge Kaplan recognized these basic truths.”
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