DOJ moves to defend Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation suit

Donald Trump.
(Image credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The Justice Department moved Tuesday to take over President Trump's defense in a defamation suit filed by author E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in a Manhattan department store dressing room during the 1990s.

Carroll sued Trump last year after he called her a liar and claimed he had never met her before. In court papers, Justice Department lawyers argued that they should be able to replace Trump's private attorneys because he made his comments about Carroll while in office. The DOJ cited the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is an extremely unusual move, University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck told The New York Times. Lawyers for the government have never before tried to use the law to include the actions of a president conducted before he took office, he explained.

Last month, a New York judge ruled that Carroll could go forward with her suit, after Trump attempted to temporarily halt the proceedings. Carroll's lawyers have asked that Trump provide a DNA sample, in order to check if any of his genetic material is on the dress Carroll said she wore during the alleged incident.

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In a statement, Carroll's attorney Roberta A. Kaplan said the Justice Department's motion is "shocking" and 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."

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