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Barr defends decision to represent Trump in rape accuser’s suit

Chris Strohm

Attorney General William Barr defended the decision to have the Justice Department represent President Donald Trump in a defamation suit brought by an advice columnist who claims Trump raped her two decades ago.

Barr sought to portray the Justice Department’s move to take over Trump’s defense in the lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll as routine, saying there’s legal precedent for the department to represent presidents and other elected officials for actions they take and comments they make in an official capacity.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr arrive at Andrews Air Force Base after a trip to Kenosha, Wis., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

“This was a normal application of the law,” Barr said during a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday. “The little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live.”

The White House sent a memo to the Justice Department requesting certification, which is the process that needed to be followed, Barr said.

Barr said case law is clear that “because we are a representative democracy, officials who are elected and answer press questions while they’re in office, even if those questions relate to their personal activity and could bear upon their person fitness, is in fact in the course of federal employment and can be therefore certified under the Westfall Act.”

In this June 23, 2019, file photo, E. Jean Carroll poses for a photo in New York.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said in a statement Tuesday that she would fight the Justice Department filing. The government’s claim that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president “when he lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she wasn’t his type,’” is “shocking,” Kaplan said.

It’s not clear why the Justice Department is only now seeking to take over Trump’s defense of the suit, which was filed in November 2019. Trump, who has denied he raped Carroll, has been represented in the case by his longtime outside lawyer Marc Kasowitz.

The move could further delay a suit in which Carroll is demanding potentially damaging evidence from Trump during the final weeks before the presidential election, including a deposition and a DNA sample to compare to a dress she claims she was wearing at the time of the alleged attack. It could also leave taxpayers on the hook for any damages awarded in the case.