Justice Dept. sues to seize profits of tell-all Melania Trump book, citing White House nondisclosure pact

In a statement, Wolkoff said she fulfilled all the terms of the agreement and that its confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated it.

Winston Wolkoff, 50, had a 15-year friendship with Melania Trump before she was ousted in 2018 as an unpaid senior adviser to the first lady in a scandal involving President Trump’s $107 million inauguration. Winston Wolkoff has said she felt “betrayed” when news accounts focused on $26 million paid to her event-planning firm by the inauguration. Most of the money went to pay for inaugural events, and she personally retained $484,126, The Washington Post has reported.

In the book, Winston Wolkoff described what she viewed as extensive mismanagement and opaque accounting for the inauguration, after which she cooperated with law enforcement investigators.

But the former right-hand events planner to Vogue editor Anna Wintour has created a larger media storm this month by playing excerpts of phone conversations that she began secretly recording with the first lady in February 2018 without her knowledge.

Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, has lambasted Winston Wolkoff for the recordings.

“Secretly taping the first lady and willfully breaking an NDA to publish a salacious book is a clear attempt at relevance,” Grisham said in an Oct. 2 statement to CNN. “The timing of this continues to be suspect — as does this never-ending exercise in self-pity and narcissism.”

The lawsuit is likely to draw renewed attention to the tapes, which capture Melania Trump venting in profane language about her frustrations with critical media coverage, expectations about her role in planning White House Christmas decorations and defending the administration’s separation of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” Trump said in one portion played in interviews with Winston Wolkoff by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

On another recording, the first lady refers to porn star Stormy Daniels as “the porn hooker.” Porn actresses took to Twitter and accused her of shaming sex workers. The recording played on “Mea Culpa,” a podcast hosted by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who went to jail for lying to investigators about paying hush money to Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump before he became president. President Trump has denied the affair.

According to the lawsuit, Winston Wolkoff served as an adviser to the first lady from January to August 21, 2017, helping Melania Trump assemble her staff, remodel the East Wing and communicate with the media.

Winston Wolkoff then entered a formal “Gratuitous services Agreement” that included, among other things, the handling of “nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information,” the suit asserts. Serving as a volunteer policy and media adviser, Winston Wolkoff agreed that she was “specifically prohibited from publishing, reproducing or otherwise divulging any such information to any unauthorized person or entity in whole or in part,” the Justice Department said in court filings.

The agreement also bound Winston Wolkoff to not disclose her work with the first lady’s office to anyone without written

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Seven Interior state candidates to participate in forum hosted by environmental, racial justice groups | Local News

Seven of the 16 candidates running for election to Interior seats in the Alaska Legislature will be participating in a Climate, Jobs and Justice political forum hosted by a group of Alaska environmental and social justice nonprofits and organizations tonight.

The forum will be held online from 5-7 p.m. and is hosted by Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, The Alaska Center, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, Greater Fairbanks Chapter NAACP 1001, the Nanook Diversity & Action Center, Native Movement, Native Peoples Action and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i.

The following candidates have confirmed plans to participate: 

House District 1 Democratic candidate Christopher Quist

House District 2 Democratic candidate Jeremiah Youmans

House District 4 Democratic Rep. Grier Hopkins

House District 5 Democratic Rep. Adam Wool

House District 6 Democratic candidate Julia Hnilicka;

House District 6 nonpartisan candidate Elijah Verhagen

Senate District B nonpartisan candidate Marna Sanford.

According to event organizers, an invite was sent to all candidates running for Interior seats in both the state House and state Senate. All seven Republican candidates and two nonpartisan candidates either declined to participate or did not respond to the invite for the forum, organizers said.

The forum will discuss issues ranging from climate action, workers advocacy, social and economic justice and healthcare access.

“The top priorities for the people of Alaska, including health care access, racial and economic justice, climate action, Alaska Native rights, and workers’ rights, don’t always get the attention they deserve. We’re excited to offer this nonpartisan forum to center these critical issues and expand the conversation with our community leaders,” said Rose O’Hara-Jolley of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i on behalf of the organizers.

To ensure proper precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum will be held online via Zoom. 

Community members interested in participating can register in advance at

bit.ly/ClimateJobsJustice

StateForum.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics. 

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Barr’s Approach Closes Gap Between Justice Dept. and White House

WASHINGTON — When the top federal prosecutor in Washington recently accused the local police of arresting protesters without probable cause, Attorney General William P. Barr stepped in.

Mr. Barr, who has frequently voiced his support for police officers, brought in the U.S. attorney, Michael Sherwin, to meet with the chief of the Washington police and other top law enforcement officials, escalating the local dispute to the top of the Justice Department.

The meeting grew heated, but ultimately, Mr. Sherwin backed down, according to three people familiar with the encounter. Mr. Barr told Mr. Sherwin to write a letter that said he had not meant to imply that the police had acted unlawfully. In a nod to Mr. Sherwin’s original objection, the Washington police are working with prosecutors to identify video and other evidence to back up the arrests.

The episode was an example of Mr. Barr’s approach to running the Justice Department under President Trump: an agenda that is squarely in line not only with the White House but also with the Trump campaign’s law-and-order platform and assertions that Democrats have made the United States less safe. Critics argued that the department’s norm of independence from politics, widely seen as an anticorruption measure that grew out of the post-Watergate era, was at risk.

Mr. Barr has threatened legal action against Democratic leaders who sparred with the president over stay-at-home orders during the pandemic and echoed Mr. Trump’s accusation that they were not tough enough on protesters during nationwide unrest over race and policing. He led federal agents who patrolled the streets of Washington against the wishes of the mayor. And this week, the Justice Department seemed to play into the president’s efforts to undermine voting by mail, making an unusual disclosure about an investigation into nine discarded military mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.

In public comments, Mr. Barr has expounded on topics outside of what recent attorneys general publicly discussed during an election, particularly his sharp critiques of Democrats and his grim pronouncements that they could destroy democracy. In a recent interview with a Chicago journalist, after acknowledging that he is not supposed to wade into politics but narrowly defining that as campaign appearances, Mr. Barr declared that the country would “go down a socialist path” if it elects former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Under Mr. Barr, the Justice Department is as close as it has been to the White House in a half-century, historians said. Not since John N. Mitchell steered the Nixon re-election effort from the fifth floor of the Justice Department has an attorney general wielded the power of the office to so bluntly serve a presidential campaign, they said.

“The norm has been that attorneys general try to keep the reputation of the department bright and shiny as a nonpartisan legitimate arm of the government that needs to be trusted by everyone,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a history professor at Bowdoin College who studies the power of the presidency.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

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Biden Says He Plans To “Elevate” Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Into White House Office | Video

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden campaigned in Charlotte, NC on Wednesday where he spoke to the “Black Economic Summit.” During a rare Q&A at the end of the event, Biden spoke about a new plan to move the Civil Rights Divison out from under the preview of the Justice Department and directly into the White House.

The final question Biden answered had to do with reforming the Justice Department, “and especially the civil rights division after four years of Trump?”

Biden said Trump has used the Justice Department like his own personal law firm and if he is president it will be “totally independent of me.”

Biden said the Civil Rights Division would also have a direct office “inside the White House.”

“So I would make sure there’s a combination of the Civil Rights division having more direct authority inside the Justice Department.”

“But most of all,” Biden said, he would have an attorney general who “understands” the DoJ is not supposed to be “the Department of Trump.”

“I’d make sure there’s a combination of the Civil Rights Division having more direct authority inside the Justice Department and be able to investigate, than in fact it has now,” Biden said. “I’ll do what the Justice Department says should be done and not politicize.”

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White House touts unusual Justice Department announcement about ‘discarded’ Trump ballots in Pennsylvania

The Justice Department said Thursday that it is investigating “potential issues with mail-in ballots” in the swing state of Pennsylvania and, in a highly unusual disclosure, revealed that several ballots marked for President Donald Trump were “discarded.”



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: President Donald Trump listens to a question during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington.


© Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump listens to a question during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington.

US Attorney David Freed said a preliminary inquiry determined that nine “military ballots were discarded” and that seven of them “were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump.” The incident occurred in Luzerne County, a swing county in northeastern Pennsylvania that is home to Wilkes-Barre. Trump flipped the county in 2016 after years of narrow Democratic wins.

The statement was highly unusual because it highlighted the fact that the ballots were marked for Trump — which immediately raised suspicions that the Justice Department was trying to furnish material that Trump could promote for political gain. Indeed, Trump and other White House aides used the information, even before it was made public, to attack mail-in voting.

Election officials go to extraordinary lengths to protect ballot secrecy. It’s unclear how investigators figured out who the votes were for, and why they made that information public.

Additionally, the Justice Department typically does not comment about ongoing investigations, though there are rules allowing it when there is a public interest at stake, like election integrity.

The federal probe was apparently triggered by a request from Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis, a Republican who announced Tuesday that federal investigators were assisting with an election issue. Freed, also a Republican, was appointed by Trump in 2017. A spokesperson for Salavantis told CNN that the nine affected ballots are for the general election. Many military and overseas ballots were sent out last weekend.

“It seems worth investigating, but I think it is really weird that they say who the votes were cast for,” CNN election law analyst Rick Hasen said in response to the announcement. “I think it will become fodder for the President to claim that people are messing with ballots in Pennsylvania.”

While any missing ballots can cause a problem, the issue appears to be miniscule, based on statements from investigators. More than 6.1 million Pennsylvanians voted in the 2016 election.

Trump uses news to criticize mail-in voting

In an interview earlier on Thursday morning, before the Justice Department announcement, Trump seized on the Pennsylvania situation to question the legitimacy of the 2020 election. It wasn’t clear at the time what he was referring to, and there had been local reports of an inquiry, but his comments generally align with the information released by Freed on Thursday afternoon.

Trump, who had apparently been briefed, told Fox News Radio, “They found six ballots in an office yesterday, in a garbage can. They were Trump ballots. Eight ballots, in an office yesterday in a certain state. … This is what’s going to happen. And we’re investigating that.”

Shortly

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Policing, criminal justice issues at the forefront in Dallas County race for Texas House

An already combative race for an eastern Dallas County statehouse seat grew even more contentious this week when Republican challenger Will Douglas questioned Democratic incumbent Rhetta Bowers’ support for local police.

“I’d like to push back on on the idea that Rep. Bowers supports local services,” Douglas said during an interview Monday with The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board. “I’m pretty sure Rep. Bowers chose not to sign Gov. [Greg] Abbott’s pledge to not defund the police. That brings me to another point of where representative Bowers and I differ. I’m a strong supporter of our law enforcement.”

“So am I,” Bowers cut in.

Douglas’ snipe came after Bowers fielded a question about her opposition to last year’s bill to cap a local government’s property tax revenue increase at 3.5%. Bowers said she opposed it because the city and county officials in her district told her it could harm their ability to fund public services like police, fire and emergency responders.

Bowers, who accused Douglas of being divisive, said he is distorting her record.

“My opponent has been very accusatory of me, not knowing me at all,” she fired back. “I am not about defunding the police. I fought hard for law enforcement when I was in the Legislature, and I took it as a great honor, and still do, to serve.”

Support for police has become a wedge issue since activists began calling for “defunding the police” after the death of George Floyd in May at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The issue gained more attention as cities like Austin began reallocating resources away from policing and toward social services to address issues, like homelessness and mental illness, that police encounter on a regular basis.

Abbott, a Republican, seized on the political opportunity to create a ‘Back the Blue’ pledge and asked lawmakers and citizens to sign it to show their support. The GOP sees the issue as an easy way to peel off voters in competitive races like House District 113, where Bowers is facing her first re-election campaign. The district covers parts of Dallas, Balch Springs, Garland, Mesquite, Rowlett and Sunnyvale.

Douglas, who has a Black father and a white mother, said reducing funding for police would impact communities of color that are most impacted by violent crime. He said Bowers is trying to stay away from calling it a “defunding” but the end result is the same.

“If your boss tells you he’s going to reallocate your paycheck, I think you’re going to consider yourself defunded,” he said.

Bowers said she has pushed back against the moniker of “defunding the police” because it sends the wrong message. But Bowers, who is also Black, said Douglas is oversimplifying a complicated issue.

Police leaders in her district have told her they need help with homeless people. Because of that, Bowers filed a bill last session that required more training for officers on how to interact with homeless people. The bill did not pass.

After Floyd’s death,

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Justice Dept. Denies House Panel’s Request for Officials to Appear After Combative Barr Hearing

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Monday denied a congressional oversight committee’s request to hear from top officials, accusing Democrats of having “squandered” their opportunity to get relevant information from Attorney General William P. Barr this summer by instead using their time to “air grievances.”

The House Judiciary Committee had asked that Eric S. Dreiband, the head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, appear this month to discuss the division, and that Michael Carvajal, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, and Donald Washington, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service, appear for an oversight hearing on Oct. 1.

The department said in a letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the committee, that Mr. Barr had been advised that he could be asked about police misconduct, voting rights, the coronavirus and federal prisons, and the civil unrest this spring and summer.

He appeared before the committee in July prepared to discuss those issues, the department said, but Democrats were more interested in “scolding and insulting” him.

“Unfortunately, when given the opportunity to obtain information from the head of the Department of Justice about precisely these matters, many committee members chose instead to use their allotted time to air grievances,” the department wrote in the letter.

“Having squandered its opportunity to conduct a meaningful oversight hearing with the attorney general, it remains unclear how further public spectacles with other department officials would now — a mere 14 legislative days since the attorney general’s hearing — advance the committee’s legitimate oversight efforts,” the department said.

A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hearing with Mr. Barr was particularly contentious, with Democrats often refusing to let the attorney general respond to their questions or their accusations. The Democrats, in turn, were angered as Mr. Barr ignored questions about his rationale or actions, or quibbled over details.

Democrats and their allies argued after the hearing that Mr. Barr would not have answered their questions in good faith had they let him respond, and that he would have filibustered and wasted the time. Better, they said, to use the time to air their grievances.

The department argued on Monday that this did “preciously little to advance any legitimate interest” because the committee as a result of this tactic learned no new information.

“When the attorney general tried to address the committee’s questions, he was interrupted and silenced in excess of 70 times,” the department said in its letter. “One member interrupted him and admitted, ‘Well, I don’t want you to tell your story.’”

While the department was unwilling to let Mr. Dreiband, Mr. Carvajal or Mr. Washington testify this fall, it said it would share information and work to schedule future hearings if the committee committed to conducting itself in “an appropriate and productive manner.”

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Garden State mourns Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who once taught in N.J.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Friday night sent shockwaves through the Garden State as top officials remembered her impact on women’s rights, and the years she spent in New Jersey before her career in Washington, D.C.

Ginsburg died at 87 of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer just three months after she announced she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer.

Gov. Phil Murphy called Ginsburg’s career “an inspiration to countless young women and girls across our nation, and around the globe.”

“Justice Ginsburg dedicated her life and career not only to the premise of equal justice and equity under the law, but also to the most basic premise that, regardless of gender, or race, or religion, or orientation, or identity, or nationality and ethnic heritage, we all must commit to fight for the things that we care about,” Murphy said.

Decades ago, Ginsburg was a pioneering professor at Rutgers-Newark School of Law, and in her final years at the university, she served as the advisor to the Women’s Rights Law Review.

“Rutgers students sparked my interest and aided in charting the course I then pursued,” Ginsburg said in Our Revolutionary Spirit, a short film on Rutgers’ 250th anniversary. “Less than three years after starting the seminar, I was arguing gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court.”

Ginsburg worked at the university from 1963 to 1972.

The governor said that he had the “distinct honor” of presenting Ginsburg with the The Golden Pea, a German center award honoring heroes, on behalf of MARCHENLAND Berlin.

“Tammy and I, and our daughter, Emma, will never forget the time she spent with us,” Murphy aded. “She was an American icon.”

Cory Booker, New Jersey’s first Black U.S. senator, also mourned Ginsburg.

“Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer and an extraordinary jurist who devoted her life to advancing the causes of equality and justice,” Booker said on Twitter. “We are in her debt.”

Sen. Robert Menendez released a statement calling her passing an, “incredible and irreplaceable loss.”

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her entire life breaking down gender barriers with unstoppable tenacity, intellectual might, and an unshakeable commitment to justice. She was one of only nine women in her law school class, and while she graduated at the top, firms wouldn’t hire her because she was a woman,” Menendez said in his statement. “It was as a professor at New Jersey’s own Rutgers Law School where Ginsburg began her life’s work fighting the same gender discrimination she herself faced.”

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal called her a “trailblazing jurist and crusader for women’s rights.”

“Justice Ginsburg’s unflagging pursuit of justice, her incisive opinions and dissents, and her principled progressivism have inspired, and will continue to inspire, all of us who cherish our society as a nation based on the rule of law,” Grewal said.

New Jersey Education Association’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty

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Steps from the White House, murals calling for justice take the place of stained glass

Before the pandemic, 18-year-old Senia Cade had always thought of herself as “some kid who paints in her room when she’s bored.” But when COVID-19 cancelled the Fort Washington, Maryland, student’s prom and graduation dreams, painting helped her vent frustration.



Levi Robinson paints a mural of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the boarded-up windows of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Robinson was among a group of artists creating vibrant messages of peace, love, and unity while advocating for racial justice at the historic church one block from the White House.


© Photograph by Cheriss May, Reuters

Levi Robinson paints a mural of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the boarded-up windows of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Robinson was among a group of artists creating vibrant messages of peace, love, and unity while advocating for racial justice at the historic church one block from the White House.


In a summer defined by the twin traumas of COVID-19 and racial reckoning, it was not long before Cade connected her artistic efforts with swelling protests over violent threats to Black Americans’ lives.

“I can use a paintbrush to send a powerful message,” said Cade, slathering a base coat of royal blue paint onto a four-by-four-foot plywood board covering a stained-glass window at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. She was laying the foundation for an image that would promote racial unity and harmony. Cade was also creating what would be only her second piece of public art at one of the nation’s most famous churches.

On September 5, Cade was the youngest of 16 artists who spent the day on ladders and scaffolding, creating vibrant messages of peace, love, and unity on the window boards of the historic church a block from the White House. The project was one in a series of public exhibitions produced by the PAINTS Institute, which its founder characterizes as a “mural march” of artistic activism. The artists say their work amplifies solutions to ongoing strife.



a person standing in a room: Senia Cade paints a mural in support of racial justice on the boarded-up windows of St. John's Episcopal Church on September 5, 2020. “We’re all shades of the same color,” Cade said. “I think it’s really important to remember that this movement is for Black lives, but it needs to be contributed to by everyone.”


© Photograph by Cheriss May, Reuters

Senia Cade paints a mural in support of racial justice on the boarded-up windows of St. John’s Episcopal Church on September 5, 2020. “We’re all shades of the same color,” Cade said. “I think it’s really important to remember that this movement is for Black lives, but it needs to be contributed to by everyone.”


The location of St. John’s Church—at the doorstep of the massive Black Lives Matter mural painted on 16th Street, N.W.—places it at the heart of ongoing protests that have occurred since the death of George Floyd on May 23; an African American man, Floyd died as killed by a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

When demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice flooded nearby Lafayette Square and the streets beside the 204-year-old church—and after a fire was set in the adjacent parish house—12-foot metal fences were erected around the church property to prevent access by demonstrators.

As the Reverend Rob Fisher, St. John’s Rector, juggles producing virtual worship services with monitoring demonstrations, he hopes the mural project will send a definitive message. “One of the blessings of coronavirus [is that] it’s helping people to concentrate on what really matters the most. I hope the messages of love and peace and unity

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The White House asked the Justice Department to handle Trump’s legal defense in a defamation lawsuit brought by his rape accuser



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump stands with Attorney General William Barr during the 38th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci


© AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump stands with Attorney General William Barr during the 38th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

  • In a highly unusual move, the Justice Department on Tuesday attempted to take over President Donald Trump’s legal defense in a defamation lawsuit brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape. A claim the president denies.
  • Attorney General William Barr told reporters Wednesday that the DOJ intervened at the request of the White House, according to The New York Times.
  • Barr defended the DOJ’s move, saying it “was a normal application of the law,” The New York Times reported.
  • But legal experts have cast doubt on that reasoning and why the DOJ waited ten months to intervene — just weeks after a court ruled Carroll could seek evidence from Trump such as DNA samples and a deposition.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Attorney General William Barr told reporters Wednesday that the Department of Justice’s surprising decision Tuesday to intervene in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump came at the direct request of the White House.

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On Tuesday, the DOJ said in court filings that it intends to replace Trump’s personal lawyers in a defamation case brought by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who has publicly accused Trump of raping her and sued him in November after he denied the allegations.

While Trump’s personal lawyers have been defending him since then, DOJ lawyers argued Tuesday that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office” when he made the comments, meaning the suit should fall under the Federal Torts Claim Act, which would put the US government on the hook for defending him and taxpayers for covering his legal costs.

The timing and highly unusual nature of the DOJ’s intervention has raised questions about its motivations and drawn scrutiny from legal experts.

Last month, a New York state court ruled that Carroll could proceed with efforts to gather evidence, including DNA samples and a deposition of Trump. But the DOJ’s move, which came on the last day Trump could have appealed the ruling, could stall that discovery process and put Carroll’s case in jeopardy.

Under the FTCA, which is also known as the Westfall Act, federal employees cannot be sued while acting in their official capacity. If the new federal judge assigned to the case, Lewis A. Kaplan, agrees with the DOJ’s rationale for intervening, he could toss the case out.

“This was a normal application of the law,” Barr said in defense of the move, according to The New York Times, adding: “The law is clear. It is done frequently. And the little tempest that is going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live.”

While the government has won several cases involving the Westfall Act, legal experts have cast doubt on the DOJ’s assertion that the law applies to Carroll’s

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