Justice Department Withdraws Trump’s Immunity in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Lawsuit
The Justice Department has reversed its stance and no longer believes that former President Donald Trump should have immunity from
The Justice Department has reversed its stance and no longer believes that former President Donald Trump should have immunity from the defamation lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll. This decision allows the civil case to proceed to trial in January.
E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexual assault, initiated the lawsuit in 2019 after Trump denied the allegations, claiming not to know her and stating she wasn’t his “type.” The Justice Department’s change in position removes a legal hurdle that previously shielded Trump from being directly involved in the lawsuit.
The Department’s lawyers communicated to Trump’s and Carroll’s legal representatives that they lacked sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump was acting within the scope of his employment or in service of the US government when he made the contested statements about Carroll.
Initially, both the Trump and Biden administrations asserted that Trump’s remarks fell within the scope of his official duties as president, potentially leading to the dismissal of the case with the Justice Department as the defendant. However, the case was held up on appeal to determine the definition of an employee’s duties. Earlier this year, a Washington, DC court provided guidance, resulting in the case being sent back to the judge. The Justice Department was given until a specified deadline to state its position, which it has now done.
Separately, in a related lawsuit filed under a New York law allowing a one-year lookback for civil claims related to sexual assaults, a federal jury ruled in May that Trump had sexually assaulted Carroll in 1996 and awarded her $5 million for battery and defamation. Trump is currently appealing this decision, although the civil verdict does not carry any jail time.
The Justice Department’s revised position was influenced by Trump’s deposition played during the battery and defamation trial, as well as his repeated denials long after leaving office. These factors indicate that Trump’s motivations were personal rather than driven by a desire to protect and serve the US. The Department acknowledged that the jury’s findings in the earlier case further supported the inference that Trump’s actions stemmed from personal grievances unrelated to his presidency.
The trial for the defamation lawsuit is scheduled for January, coinciding with the start of the presidential primary season. Trump’s legal team has not yet provided a response to this recent development. Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, expressed gratitude that the Justice Department has reconsidered its position and reiterated their belief that Trump’s defamatory statements were made out of personal animus rather than in his capacity as the President of the United States.