Trump bid to dodge suit from rape accuser heads to DC court

Sep 26, 2022, 8:07 PM | Updated: Sep 27, 2022, 2:49 pm

FILE - Columnist E. Jean Carroll leaves federal court, Feb. 22, 2022, in New York. A federal appeal...

FILE - Columnist E. Jean Carroll leaves federal court, Feb. 22, 2022, in New York. A federal appeals court asked a Washington D.C. appeals court Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, to help it decide whether the United States should be substituted for former President Donald Trump as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by Carroll, who says he raped her over a quarter century ago.(AP Photo/Larry Neumeister, File)

(AP Photo/Larry Neumeister, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — An appeals court in Washington D.C. has been asked to help decide whether Donald Trump was doing his job as president when he denied raping a woman and dismissed his accuser as “not my type.”

The columnist, E. Jean Carroll, sued Trump in 2019, claiming the Republican raped her in the mid-1990s inside a dressing room at a Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan, then lied about it and besmirched her character when she decided to tell her story publicly.

Since then, the case has gotten bogged down in a technical legal dispute over whether Trump should have to defend the lawsuit as a private citizen, or whether the U.S. government should step in as the defendant because Trump was performing his duties as president at the time he issued his denials.

Because the alleged attack happened so long ago, Carroll was originally barred for suing over sexual battery, so she sued for defamation, making the suit largely about disparaging comments Trump made about the rape allegation.

In a 2-to-1 decision Tuesday, a panel of judges on the New York based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals resolved one part of the fight, holding that Trump was a federal employee. But it asked the D.C. Court of Appeals, the highest court in the District of Columbia, to decide whether Trump’s public statements denying Carroll’s rape claims occurred within the scope of his employment.

If so, he would be entitled to immunity from the lawsuit, the 2nd Circuit judges ruled. And while the U.S. government can be sued over some wrongdoing by its employees, it is immune from defamation lawsuits, which would mean Carroll’s suit would fail.

The 2nd Circuit said courts have been inconsistent in previous rulings and that the D.C. Court of Appeals might be in the best position to answer the question of whether Trump’s statements were job-related.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, treated the 2nd Circuit ruling as a complete victory, saying it “will protect the ability of all future Presidents to effectively govern without hindrance.”

She added: “We are confident that the D.C. Court of Appeals will find that our client was acting within the scope of his employment when properly repudiating Ms. Carroll’s allegations.”

In a majority opinion written by Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi, two members of the 2nd Circuit’s three-judge panel said they were not expressing any view on whether Trump’s public statements were defamatory or whether a sexual assault had occurred.

In a dissent, though, Circuit Judge Denny Chin said the other members of the panel were wrong in concluding Trump was an employee of the government according to a law known as the Westfall Act. He said the law was intended to protect low-level, rank-and-file government employees rather than the president.

And he said he would also conclude that at least some of the statements Trump made about Carroll were not made within the scope of his duties as president. He pointed in particular to Trump’s comment that Carroll was not his type.

“In the context of an accusation of rape, the comment ‘she’s not my type’ surely is not something one would expect the President of the United States to say in the course of his duties,” Chin wrote. “Carroll’s allegations plausibly paint a picture of a man pursuing a personal vendetta against an accuser, not the United States’ ‘chief constitutional officer’ engaging in ‘supervisory and policy responsibilities of utmost discretion and sensitivity.'”

Chin also attacked the government’s position — which began when Trump was president and continued under the administration of President Joe Biden — that a president acts within the scope of his employment whenever he responds to the media and to public critics.

“If that were so, then the mere presence of others would neutralize whatever a President did or said, for no President could be held accountable for damage done in front of a microphone or in an official meeting — whether defaming a citizen, exposing classified national security information, or inciting a riot. This is not, and should not be, the law,” Chin wrote.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, responded to a request for comment by citing Chin’s dissent, calling it a “powerful opinion.”

She added: “We are confident that the D.C. Court of Appeals, where this case is now headed on certification, will agree.”

There’s a chance the legal fight over whether Trump or the U.S. government should be the defendant in the case could become moot.

Carroll’s lawyer recently alerted a Manhattan federal court judge in August that she plans to file a new lawsuit against Trump in November when New York’s Adult Survivor’s Act take effect. The law offers a one-year “window” during which time adult survivors of sexual attacks would be able to bring civil claims when they otherwise would be barred by time requirements.

That would mean Carroll could sue Trump over the original rape allegation, which happened long before he became president.


This story has been corrected to delete a sentence that erroneously said the U.S. government could potentially be held liable for Trump’s statements. The U.S. government is immune from defamation claims.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Seattle non-profits...

Associated Press

Oregon man convicted of murder in fatal shooting of sheriff’s deputy in Washington state

A jury has convicted an Oregon man of murder in the fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy in Washington state.

18 hours ago

Image: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a campaign rally on Monday, Sept...

Associated Press

Judge rules Donald Trump defrauded banks, insurers while building real estate empire

A judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House.

1 day ago

FILE - The Amazon logo is displayed, Sept. 6, 2012, in Santa Monica, Calif. Amazon's profitable clo...

Haleluya Hadero, Associated Press

Amazon sued by FTC and 17 states over allegations it inflates online prices and overcharges sellers

The FTC filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon on Tuesday, alleging the e-commerce behemoth uses its position in the marketplace to inflate prices

2 days ago

KYIV, UKRAINE - 2022/09/03: A man looks at an image generated based on the stories of displaced chi...

Associated Press

Tech companies try to take AI image generators mainstream with better protections against misuse

Artificial intelligence tools that can conjure whimsical artwork or realistic-looking images from written commands started wowing the public last year. But most people don't actually use them at work or home.

2 days ago

Image: Actor David McCallum attends an event for "NCIS" during the 2009 Monte Carlo Television Fest...

Associated Press

David McCallum, star of hit series ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and ‘NCIS,’ dies at 90

Actor David McCallum, who was the eccentric medical examiner in the popular "NCIS," has died. He was 90.

2 days ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests indicating a positive result are photographed in New York, April...

Associated Press

Biden administration announces $600M to produce and distribute COVID tests

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Trump bid to dodge suit from rape accuser heads to DC court