House Judiciary Democrats call on DOJ to reverse decision on Trump defense

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reverse its decision to continue defending former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE against a defamation suit stemming from a rape allegation from writer E. Jean Carroll.

“Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that it would continue the previous Administration’s push to represent former President Trump, at taxpayer expense, in a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll. That decision seems profoundly misguided. We write to urge you to reconsider,” the Democrats, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nalder (D-N.Y.), wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandDOJ sues Texas over Abbott order restricting transportation of migrants Graham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Garland floats legal action over Abbott immigration order MORE.

The letter comes a day after the DOJ filed a brief with a federal appeals court backing the Trump administration’s argument that Trump should be represented by government lawyers because his comments about Carroll were made in his capacity as president. 

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The decision raised the prospect that Carroll’s defamation suit would be tossed since federal law bars such suits from being waged against government officials.

Carroll, who first accused Trump of rape in June 2019, filed a defamation suit against him that November after he denied the allegations and said “she’s not my type.” 

The Democrats dismissed the DOJ’s explanation, saying there was no connection between Trump’s remarks and his role as president.

“Are we to understand that federal employees are free to engage in private tortious conduct for personal gain, so long as they maintain federal employment and can assert some pretextual benefit to the public for their actions?” they asked. 

“President Trump’s disgusting comments about Ms. Carroll had nothing to do with his official responsibilities as President, and the whole world knows it. Survivors of sexual assault, among other victims, deserve better,” they added.

The Democrats concluded the letter to Garland by asking that the DOJ either reverse its stance or provide a briefing explaining its rationale.

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The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The Monday decision to defend Trump marked the latest salvo in the ongoing case. 

District Judge Lewis Kaplan, a Clinton appointee, blocked the DOJ’s effort last year, leading the Trump administration to appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. 

President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE panned the DOJ’s move while on the campaign trail in 2020, and the White House tried Tuesday to distance itself from the Department’s latest decision.

"The president strongly believes in the independence of the Department of Justice,” Jen PsakiJen PsakiMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Hunter Biden blasts those criticizing price of his art: 'F--- 'em' MORE, the White House press secretary, told reporters. “The White House was not consulted by the Department of Justice on the decision to file this brief or its contents.” 

Carroll expressed outrage over the development Tuesday, saying she was angry but hopeful Kaplan’s decision would be upheld.

"As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault — the DOJ is trying to stop me from having that same right," she said. "I am angry! I am offended! I and my attorneys Robbie Kaplan and Joshua Matz are confident that Judge Kaplan's decision will be affirmed by the Second Circuit."