Judge rejects U.S. request to shield Trump from rape accuser’s defamation lawsuit

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign event, in Allentown, Pennsylvania
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 26, 2020.
REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a U.S. government request to drop Donald Trump as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit by a writer who said the president falsely denied raping her in a Manhattan department store a quarter century ago.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan refused to let the government substitute itself for Trump as a defendant in former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit.

Kaplan’s decision is a defeat for Trump, because dropping him as a defendant would have shielded him from liability and likely doomed Carroll’s defamation claim.

Acting at the behest of Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice has argued that Trump acted in his official capacity when denying Carroll’s accusations, and therefore could not be sued personally for defamation.

But the judge said Trump was not an “employee of the government” entitled to be shielded from Carroll’s claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Kaplan also said Trump did not make his statements within the scope of his “employment” as president.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Carroll’s lawyers did not immediately respond to similar requests.