Court Battles

Barr stands by DOJ move to defend Trump in Carroll lawsuit

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday said the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to defend President Trump in the defamation suit brought by author E. Jean Carroll, who accused the president of rape, was a “normal application of the law.” 

At a press conference in Chicago, Barr cited the Federal Tort Claims Act, known as the Westfall Act, saying it permits the administration to request certification for the case to be moved to federal court and to substitute the U.S. government as the responsible party. For the case involving Carroll, the White House submitted a memorandum requesting the certification, Barr said.

“The case law is crystal clear that the Westfall Act applies to claims against the president, the vice president, as well other federal employees and members of Congress,” he said.

Barr also pointed to D.C. case law, which he said ruled “that elected officials in our … representative democracy when they’re answering questions in office even about personal affairs, any defamation claim is subject to Westfall.” 

“The little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live,” he added. 

Barr’s defense comes a day after the DOJ argued in a filing to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that the case should be moved to federal court and that Trump acted in his official presidential capacity when he responded to Carroll’s allegations.

The federal government’s request followed a New York judge’s ruling that allowed Carroll’s case to continue. Carroll first filed her defamation suit against the president in November 2019, saying he was untruthful when he said he hadn’t met her. 

The author wrote in a memoir released in 2019 that Trump raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store nearly three decades ago. The president has denied the allegations.

Tags Defamation Department of Justice Donald Trump federal court Justice Department Lawsuit rape allegation Westfall Act William Barr

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