E. Jean Carroll visits ‘Tell Me Everything’ with John Fugelsang the SiriusXM Studios on July 11, 2019 in New York.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
The White House requested that the U.S. Justice Department launch a last-minute, controversial effort to intervene in a lawsuit in which President Donald Trump is accused of defaming E. Jean Carroll, a writer who says Trump raped her years ago, Attorney General William Barr revealed Wednesday.
Barr also said that American taxpayers — and not Trump personally — will be responsible for any monetary damages awarded Carroll, if she proves her claims against the president, and if a judge agrees to allow the Department of Justice to handle the case.
Barr defended the DOJ’s intervention in the case as proper and warranted by both the law and recent practice by other administrations.
The DOJ on Tuesday filed a legal action seeking to transfer Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against Trump, which was filed in New York state court, to Manhattan federal court.
The action also asks that the United States government replace Trump as the defendant in the case.
The case was assigned Wednesday to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton. Kaplan has yet to schedule a hearing on the DOJ’s request to remove the case from state court.
The request comes two months before the U.S. presidential election, but 10 months after Carroll sued Trump.
Carroll sued Trump last November after he said she was lying when she claimed in a published account that he had raped her in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. Since the suit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Trump has been represented by a private attorney, not a DOJ attorney.
But in its filing Tuesday, the DOJ said that it had certified that Trump “was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose.”
“The United States will file a motion to substitute itself for President Trump in this action for any claim for which the [Federal Tort Claims Act] provides the exclusive remedy,” the DOJ said in its filing in federal court.
Barr, during a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday, defended the filing, and said it was done at the behest of the White House.
He said that the DOJ’s request to transfer the case, and to replace Trump as the defendant, was authorized by the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act, which is also known as the Westfall Act. That act protects government employees from civil liability for acts related to their official duties.
Barr said that an appeals court decision has ruled that the law protects government employees even in cases where a claim involves them being asked questions by the press that “relate to their personal activity.”
The attorney general has said that the process for invoking the act that has been developed is for the employer of the employee to