While the alleged sexual assault occurred long before Trump became President, the Justice Department argued that it must take over because Trump’s comments spurring the defamation lawsuit came while he was in office.
The request and possible change of lawyers could further delay the lawsuit, or even kill it entirely. Should the Justice Department be allowed to take over, it could mean the end of Carroll’s lawsuit as the federal government can’t be sued for defamation, noted CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law school professor Steve Vladeck.
Trump’s denials came while he was acting in his official duties as President, the Justice Department said in court papers Tuesday.
“President Trump was acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States at the time of the incidents out of which the Plaintiff’s defamation claim arose. Indeed, when providing the challenged statements, the President was speaking to or responding to inquiries from the press, much as the elected officials in the cases cited above were speaking to the press or making other public statements at the time of their challenged actions,” the Justice Department’s court filing stated.
“The Westfall Act accordingly requires the substitution of the United States as defendant in this action,” the department added.
“Even in today’s world, that argument is shocking,” said Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s attorney, of the Justice Department’s logic.
Carroll is also seeking to require Trump provide a DNA sample to compare with male genetic material found on the black Donna Karan dress Carroll says she wore during the alleged encounter at Bergdorf’s.
“President Trump knows that I told the truth when I said that he had sexually assaulted me in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman. He also knows that he was lying when he said that he had never met me before and that I ‘wasn’t his type,'” Carroll said in a statement.
“Today’s actions demonstrate that Trump will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government, to block discovery from going forward in my case before the upcoming election to try to prevent a jury from ever deciding which one of us is lying,” she said.
CNN’s Sara Murray and Erica Orden contributed to this report.