NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is asking to take over President Donald Trump’s defense in a defamation lawsuit from a writer who accused him of rape.
Federal lawyers also asked a court Tuesday to allow a move that could put the American people on the hook for any money E. Jean Carroll might be awarded.
The Justice Department lawyers argue that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office” when he denied Carroll’s allegations last year that he raped her in a New York luxury department store in the mid-1990s.
She says his comments besmirched her character and harmed her career.
The filing complicates, at least for the moment, Carroll’s efforts to get a DNA sample from the president as potential evidence and to have him answer questions under oath.
It comes amid concerns that Attorney General William Barr has gone out of his way to intervene in other legal cases involving Trump or his allies. Barr tried to decrease the amount of prison time his office sought for Trump ally Roger Stone following a criminal trial where he was found guilty. (Stone’s sentence was later commuted by Trump.) Barr’s Justice Department has acted to dismiss its own case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, called the department’s argument “shocking.”