DOJ can't defend Trump in rape defamation suit: judge

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a U.S. government request to substitute itself for President Donald Trump as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit by a writer who said Trump raped her decades ago.

The judge’s decision is a defeat for Trump.

The case comes from former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who contends Trump defamed her by calling her a liar after she made her rape claims public. The president denies ever meeting her.

The lawsuit - filed in a New York state court - can now move forward.

Acting on the directive of Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice has argued that Trump acted in his official capacity as president when he denied Carroll's accusations, and therefore could not be sued personally for defamation.

But the judge said Trump did not make his statements within the scope of his role as president - and, that Trump was not an "employee of the government" and therefore was not entitled to be legally shielded from Carroll’s claims.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Carroll said in a statement QUOTE: "When Donald Trump called me a liar and denied that he had ever met me, he was not speaking on behalf of the United States. I am happy that Judge Kaplan recognized these basic truths."

Video Transcript

- A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a US government request to substitute itself for President Donald Trump as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit by a writer who said Trump raped her decades ago. The judge's decision is a defeat for Trump. The case comes from former "Elle" magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who contends Trump defamed her by calling her a liar after she made her rape claims public. The president denies ever meeting her.

The lawsuit, filed in a New York state court, can now move forward. Acting on the directive of Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice has argued that Trump acted in his official capacity as president when he denied Carroll's accusations and therefore could not be sued personally for defamation. But the judge said Trump did not make his statements within the scope of his role as president and that Trump was not an employee of the government and therefore was not entitled to be legally shielded from Carroll's claims.

The Justice Department declined to comment. Carroll said in a statement, quote, "When Donald Trump called me a liar and denied that he had ever met me, he was not speaking on behalf of the United States. I am happy that Judge Kaplan recognized these basic truths."