STORY: In a new legal blow to former U.S. president Donald Trump, the U.S. government on Tuesday switched gears saying it won’t argue that Trump is entitled to immunity from writer E. Jean Carroll’s $10 million defamation lawsuit against him, paving the way for a possible trial early next year.
In a letter to Trump’s and Carroll’s lawyers, the U.S. Justice Department said it no longer believed Trump was acting in his capacity as president in June 2019 when he allegedly made defamatory comments about Carroll in response to her accusations that he raped her.
The former Elle magazine columnist alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Trump in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, a claim that he dismissed as a “complete con job” and “a hoax and a lie.”
Caroll has already won a $5 million jury verdict against Trump earlier this year for a second lawsuit that found he was liable for sexual abuse and defamation.
Trump is appealing the verdict.
The DoJ’s Tuesday filing reverses its earlier position – early on in the Biden administration – that Trump was protected because he was president when he made the remarks.
It said quote – “There is no longer a sufficient basis to conclude that the former president was motivated by ‘more than an insignificant’ desire to serve the United States government.”
Because the Justice Department will not try to substitute itself as the defendant that effectively ends Carroll’s case because the government cannot be sued for defamation.
However, Carroll lawyer Roberta Kaplan said it removes a possible obstacle to a second defamation trial set for January which had been delayed by appeals over whether Trump could be held liable for statements he made while president.
Trump’s lawyers and representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.