In a letter to Attorney General Garland, House Judiciary Democrats urged him to reverse the DOJ’s position and stop defending Trump.
In a letter provided to PoliticusUSA, the Democratic members wrote to Garland:
Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that it would continue the previous Administration’s push to represent former President Trump, at taxpayer expense, in a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll. That decision seems profoundly misguided. We write to urge you to reconsider.
Although DOJ maintains that its position has nothing to do with the merits of Ms. Carroll’s case, the facts surrounding the lawsuit matter greatly in understanding the deeply problematic implications of the Department’s actions. Ms. Carroll alleged in an article in June 2019 that Mr. Trump sexually assaulted her inside a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York in the 1990s. Mr. Trump responded by denying the assault, accusing Ms. Carroll of lying about the incident, and stating that he could not have engaged in any sexual conduct with her because she was not his “type.” Ms. Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Trump based on these statements. She has been waiting for more than a year and a half for the opportunity to make her case on the merits.
s a policy matter, we are concerned that DOJ has taken the position that federal officials act within the scope of their employment—and, therefore, enjoy immunity from civil liability—whenever they defame someone, so long as there is some connection between the statement and their official responsibilities. Are we to understand that federal employees are free to engage in private tortious conduct for personal gain, so long as they maintain federal employment and can assert some pretextual benefit to the public for their actions? President Trump’s disgusting comments about Ms. Carroll had nothing to do with his official responsibilities as President, and the whole world knows it. Survivors of sexual assault, among other victims, deserve better.
Although we appreciate that the Department is constrained in the extent to which it can engage with us on matters related pending litigation, we request that you provide us with a briefing to explain the Department’s position in this case. We would, of course, not object if the Department changed its position before such a briefing can be arranged.
The DOJ’s defense of Trump is horrendous because Trump was not acting in his capacity as president when he defamed Carroll. Instead of being worried about the precedent that this case could set for the DOJ, Garland should be worried about the precedent that this case could set for presidents using the Department of Justice as in-house counsel in personal lawsuits involving sexual assault.
Judiciary Committee Democrats could call Garland in front of the committee and hold public hearings making him defend the defense of Trump.
As Rachel Maddow said the DOJ needs the corruption cleaned out, and Garland’s feather dusting is not getting the job done.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association