President Donald Trump is being sued for defamation after denying accusations of rape and allegedly defaming his accuser.
On Tuesday, the case took a bizarre twist when Attorney General Bill Barr’s Department of Justice intervened in the case.
“The US Justice Department, in an extraordinary move on Tuesday, asked to take over the defense of President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll, a woman who has accused Trump of sexual assault,” CNN reported Tuesday. “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 move — defending Trump at taxpayer expense — comes amid ongoing criticism that the Justice Department has acted in the President’s personal interests.”
“The request and possible change of lawyers could further delay the lawsuit, or even kill it entirely,” CNN reported. “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.”
Vladeck offered further analysis on Twitter.
“Just to be clear, DOJ’s argument that Trump was acting ‘within the scope of his employment’ when he defamed E. Jean Carroll is not an effort to *take over* defense of the suit; it’s an effort to have the suit *dismissed*—because the government itself can’t be sued for defamation,” Vladeck tweeted.
He wasn’t the only legal expert weighing in. Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal also offered his thoughts.
“This is, putting it mildly, an insane position for DOJ. They are doing everything they can to appear to be Trump’s personal law firm. Its the opposite of the way the Department of Justice is supposed to behave,” Katyal tweeted.
Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade also blasted the Barr’s Department of Justice.
“Taxpayers should not be funding this defense for alleged conduct occurring in Trump’s personal capacity and before he was president. DOJ is way out of line here,” McQuade tweeted.
Former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers blasted the move.
“Trump’s claim is a loser as a legal argument, but may win in his primary goal of deferring evidence collection including Trump deposition til after the election. Once again Trump manipulates the legal system for his benefit. And Barr helps here,” she explained. “Shameful.”
Another legal analyst urged legal institutions to challenge Barr.
“The legal profession has been woefully silent as Barr systemically undermines the credibility of DOJ. Every state bar, the ABA, all bar associations, law schools, should speak out against DOJ stepping in to represent Trump on a rape case that occurred when he wasn’t in office,” attorney Midwin Charles said.