The Department of Justice is seeking to take over the defense of President Trump in a defamation case brought by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who claims Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman changing room in the 1990s.
In a Manhattan federal-court filing Tuesday, the DOJ said Trump was acting “within the scope of his office” when he denied the sexual-assault allegation, triggering the suit, so the department should take over the defense.
With the filing, the DOJ also moved the case from New York state court to federal court in Manhattan.
It also seeks to technically replace Trump with the United States as the defendant, which could result in the suit being dismissed, says CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law-school professor Stephen Vladeck, because the federal government can’t be sued for defamation.
The move comes about a month after a judge in state court denied a motion by Trump to delay the case.
Carroll tweeted Tuesday that the filing was another stall tactic, writing that Trump was trying to “hurl” Attorney General Bill Barr at her.
“Just when @realDonaldTrump is required to produce documents and DNA in discovery, he sics the DOJ on us,” she wrote, adding that the move was “unprecedented.”
Her attorney, said in a statement tweeted by Carroll that the move by DOJ was “shocking.”
“Realizing that there was no valid basis to appeal that decision in the New York courts, on the very day that he would have been required to appeal, Trump instead enlisted the US Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers and argue that when he lied about sexually assaulting our client … he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States,” Carroll attorney Robbie Kaplan wrote.
“Even in today’s world, that argument is shocking,” she added.