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Justice Dept. moves to defend Trump against defamation suit

Justice Dept. moves to defend Trump against defamation suit
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference Monday at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday moved to defend President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll.

In her memoir, Carroll accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in 1995 or 1996. When asked about the claim last year, Trump denied that he'd ever met Carroll, saying she made the accusations to sell books.

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Carroll filed the lawsuit in November, saying Trump's statements "inflicted emotional pain and suffering, they damaged her reputation and they caused substantial professional harm."

Tuesday, the Justice Department moved to replace Trump's personal attorneys in his defense. They said Trump was acting in his official capacity as president last year when he denied ever meeting Carroll, which is the basis of the defamation suit.

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"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 said.

Department attorneys cited the Federal Tort Claims Act, which shields federal employees from lawsuits and allows the department to take over the case and move it from state court to federal court.

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Carroll's attorney, Roberta A. Kaplan, said she was shocked by the department's move to defend Trump and accused the president of seeking to delay the case after a federal judge ruled last month it could go forward.

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"Trump's effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out," Kaplan said.

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