NEW YORK — Justice Department attorneys are seeking to replace private lawyers for President Donald Trump in his legal battle against an advice columnist who claimed he raped her more than 20 years ago.
Trump was acting “within the scope” of his job as president when he said E. Jean Carroll lied about the incident, the Justice Department said in a court motion Tuesday.
The U.S. also moved the case to Manhattan federal court from a New York state court, where a judge last month denied Trump’s request to stall the suit.
“The defendant employee, President Trump, was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose,” the Justice Department motion said.
“The claim asserts defamation based on a written statement issued to the press and two statements the President made in interviews in June 2019 in which the President vehemently denied accusations made in Plaintiff’s then-forthcoming book,” the Justice Department court filing says. “The President explained that these accusations were false and that the incident she alleged never happened.”
If Trump was acting “within the scope of his office or employment,” the move to federal court is specifically allowed by federal law.
Carroll, 75, first went public with the allegation against Trump in June, 2019, before the release of her book “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” which contains a description of the alleged assault.
Carroll said that in late 1995 or early 1996, Trump — then a real estate mogul — attacked her inside a dressing room at the upscale Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.
She said Trump knocked her head against a wall, pulled down her tights and briefly penetrated her before she pushed him off and sprinted out.
Carroll has also sought to obtain Trump’s DNA to determine whether his genetic material is on a dress she says she wore during the encounter.
“The Donna Karan coatdress still hangs on the back of my closet door, unworn and unlaundered since that evening,” Carroll wrote in the book, which was excerpted in New York magazine. Carroll wore the dress for a photo accompanying the magazine piece.
Trump denied the allegation and accused Carroll of inventing it to boost book sales. He said she was “totally lying,” and that he had “never met this person in my life.” He said Carroll was “not my type.”
But a 1987 photo shows them and their then-spouses at a social event. Trump has dismissed the photo, saying he was “standing with my coat on in a line.”
“She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation,” Trump said at the time. He said Carroll’s book “should be sold in the fiction section.”
Carroll sued Trump in November, saying he smeared her and hurt her career as a longtime Elle magazine advice columnist by calling her a liar.
Carroll said Trump’s new legal strategy is an attempt to intimidate her.
“Just when @realDonaldTrump is required to produce documents and DNA in discovery, he sics the DOJ on us,” Carroll tweeted Tuesday. “THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED!!”
Her lawyer, Robbie Kaplan, said Trump was trying to “wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct.”
“It offends me as a lawyer,” Kaplan said, “and offends me even more as a citizen.”
Carroll seeks unspecified damages and a retraction.
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