Defamation: Just One More Presidential Duty

Last week’s story was about Trump using more than $50 million in campaign funds to pay for legal fees related to defense of his aides, family members, and campaign. Today, he is using the Department of Justice to defend him in a civil suit in New York. That means you and I are paying for his personal legal defense. 

The civil suit was brought by E. Jean Carroll, who has told the world that Trump raped her some 25 years ago. In response to Carroll’s claim, Trump said that he never met her and that “she wasn’t his type” anyway. His statements about Carroll led to the current defamation lawsuit, which says that Trump calling her a liar has hurt Carroll’s career and reputation. 

Trump clearly had met Carroll. There are photos of Trump and Carroll and their respective spouses at a social event in 1987. More than twenty other women have accused Trump of sexually assaulting them. Back in 2005, he bragged about assaulting women, with a videotape showing him saying, “when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” 

Today, the Attorney General intervened in the civil lawsuit, which may mean that Trump can, indeed, do anything. Here’s what Carroll’s lawyer said about the move:

“Almost exactly one month ago today, a New York state court rejected Donald Trump’s argument that he is immune from a private lawsuit concerning defamatory statements he made about a sexual assault he committed in the 1990s. As a result of that decision, Trump was soon going to be required to produce documents, provide a DNA sample, and sit for a deposition. Realizing that there was no valid basis to appeal that decision in the New York courts, on the very day that he would have been required to appeal, Trump instead enlisted the U.S. Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers and argue that when he lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she ‘wasn’t his type,’ he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States. It offends me as a lawyer, and offends me even more as a citizen. 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 will ig to go to prevent the truth from coming out.”

Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the case removed from state court and sent to a federal court instead. He says that Trump was acting as president, so the government will defend him. The New York Times quotedSteve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor: 

“The question is, is it really within the scope of the law for government lawyers to defend someone accused of lying about a rape when he wasn’t even president yet?”

Before he was president, Trump bragged that his supporters were so loyal that, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” 

And if he did, Attorney General Bill Barr would probably claim that was also just part of his official duties. 

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