WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday defended his Justice Department’s request to replace President Trump’s lawyers and defend him in a defamation suit brought by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of rape.
On Tuesday evening, the DOJ filed a motion requesting to intervene in the case and said Trump was “acting within the scope of his office” when he last year accused Carroll of “totally lying” when she claimed Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman changing room in the mid-1990s.
While the move is very rare, Barr told NBC News that it is “not particularly unusual” for the Justice Department to step in when an elected government official is sued civilly in court.
“This is done frequently. It’s been done for presidents. It’s been done for congressmen. The normal process was followed in this particular case you’re talking about,” Barr said.
The AG said under the Westfall statue, if an executive or legislative employee is sued for a state tort while they are carrying out their duties, they can have the case moved to a federal court and the United States government can be substituted as the defendant.
In the case of Carroll vs. Trump, the DOJ change will see the case become Carroll vs. the United States. The DOJ also moved the case from New York state court to federal court in Manhattan.
Barr told NBC that since Trump was asked by a reporter about Carroll’s allegations, he can invoke the federal law and have the DOJ represent him.
“This was perfectly legitimate under not only the statute but case law,” Barr said, before adding that he was not responsible for signing off on the change.
Carroll on Tuesday tweeted that the filing was a stall tactic, writing that Trump was trying to “hurl” Barr at her.
“Just when @realDonaldTrump is required to produce documents and DNA in discovery, he sics the DOJ on us,” she wrote, claiming that the move was “unprecedented.”
Carroll’s claims are contained in an upcoming book and were first made public in a New York magazine preview in June.
Trump in a statement said he’d never met the advice columnist and later claimed she wasn’t his type.