Columnist E. Jean Carroll’s attorneys urged an appellate court to reject the notion that former President Donald Trump undertook his efforts to “discredit and destroy” her under the scope of his employment.
In a 64-page legal brief, Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan told the the D.C. Court of Appeals to find that Trump had been acting for “personal reasons” when he told reporters that Carroll was “not my type,” in order to deny that he raped her inside a Bergdorf Goodman’s in the mid-1990s.
“In June 2019, E. Jean Carroll revealed that former President Donald J. Trump had sexually assaulted her decades earlier,” Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan told the D.C. Court of Appeals on Thursday. “Although Trump denied it, he did not stop there. He launched a series of vicious, personal attacks. He implied that she was too ugly to rape; that she had falsely accused other men of sexual assault; and that she had invented her story for money, or to sell books, or to advance a political plot. None of this was true. Trump knew who Carroll was when he attacked her, he knew who she was in 2019, and he knew what he was doing when he went on a rampage designed to punish and humiliate her for daring to reveal his decades-old crime.”
Carroll filed her defamation lawsuit later that year, but before a jury could assess her case, the courts must resolve whether Trump has civil immunity for remarks he made during his presidency. That question now turns on whether Trump made those remarks to reporters as part of the duties of his office — or for his own reasons.
Both under Attorneys General Bill Barr and Merrick Garland, the Department of Justice argued that Trump should be immunized from Carroll’s lawsuit because he spoke to reporters about a matter of public concern.
For Carroll’s legal team, that position is far too sweeping.
“This categorical position totally precludes any possibility that an elected federal official could act with purely (or decisively) personal motives while speaking publicly — no matter how private the subject matter, how unrelenting and incendiary the official’s statements, how patently disconnected from any government business, or how plainly consistent with that official’s prior personal conduct,” the legal brief states. “Trump and DOJ reason that public statements are always within an official’s scope of employment because they may incidentally affect his perceived fitness to hold office. On that basis, Trump and DOJ ask this Court to announce a doctrine of categorical immunity for public officials, affording them carte blanche to use the public platform inherent in their office to defame any private citizen—anywhere, anytime, for any reason.”
More than 25 women have accused former President Trump of sexual misconduct, and in his public denials of Carroll’s accusations, her lawyers find the same “modus operandi” playing out in strikingly familiar style.
“Simply put, Trump’s attacks on Carroll did not reflect anything unique to his high office, nor did they arise from any distinctively presidential consideration,” the brief states. “Rather, they followed directly from a modus operandi stretching back decades into his life as a private citizen.”
For Trump, his remarks were not about defending his fitness for high office, Carroll argues.
“This stark consistency across time supports the conclusion that Trump’s efforts to destroy and discredit Carroll were simply how he responds to any woman who accuses him of sexual abuse; they had nothing to do with any federal purpose,” the brief states.
However the D.C. Court of Appeals decides on the question of Trump’s immunity for the 2019 defamation claims, Carroll’s lawsuit against the former president almost certainly will see a jury next April, if the parties do not settle. On Thanksgiving, Carroll filed a new federal complaint leveling sexual assault claims against Trump under the New York Adult Survivors Act, which opened a one-year look-back window for claims otherwise barred by the statute of limitations.
Carroll also sued Trump for defamation for his similar attack against her posted on Truth Social.
Read Carroll’s latest legal brief here.
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