In an interview on the NBC Nightly News, Attorney General William Barr told journalist Pete Williams that the Department of Justice’s petition to take over President Donald Trump’s defense in a case where he has been sued by a woman accusing him of rape was “not particularly unusual.”
E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of defaming her in a lawsuit for his words during an interview with The Hill when he told reporters in June of 2019 that he never assaulted her, said that she was “totally lying” and then added that he would not have assaulted her because she was “not (his) type.”
Barr has recently come under fire for the department’s decision to move the case from state to federal court and petition to replace Trump with the DOJ as the defendant in the case. The legal underpinnings of the case rely on the assertion that Trump was, “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he denied Jean Carroll’s rape accusations.
Here’s what you need to know:
Barr Says the DOJ’s Defense of Trump in Carroll Case Is ‘Normal’
During his appearance on NBC, Barr said moving the case was permitted by law, due to the “Westfall statue.”
(It) says that if someone is an employee of the executive branch or the legislative, and they are sued for a state tort that occurred in the course of them working for the government — of their duties for the government — then they can have it certified to be moved to federal court, and the United States is then substituted as the party.
The Westfall statute states, “Upon certification by the Attorney General that the defendant employee was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose, any civil action or proceeding commenced upon such claim in a United States district court shall be deemed an action against the United States under the provisions of this title and all references thereto, and the United States shall be substituted as the party defendant,” according to Cornell Law School.
Barr, in speaking about the change, said that the uproar was due to politics, according to the Washington Post. “This is a normal application of the law. The law is clear, it is done frequently, and the little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live,” Barr said.
In that same interview, Barr also called complaints about the police shooting of Jacob Blake in the back, which has left Blake paralyzed, “Monday morning quarterbacking” from people “ignorant” about police procedures.
Carroll Has Called the Petition ‘Unprecedented’
Carroll tweeted that she’s determined to fight. “TO DONALD J. TRUMP. Sir, I and my attorney Robbie Kaplan, are ready! So is every woman who has ever been silenced! So is every American citizen who has been trampled by Bill Barr and the DOJ! BRING IT!,” she wrote.
Carroll’s lawyer Roberta A. Kaplan said, “Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent…and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out,” according to the New York Times.
Some have also pointed out that the move came after a judge’s recent ruling against Trump’s legal team that may lead to Trump being deposed in Carroll’s case.
University of Texas Law School professor Stephen Vladeck said that the filing was “unusual” in an interview with the Washington Post. “The timing here is really suspicious, because if DOJ is convinced of its view that the conduct was within the scope of the federal officer’s employment, it not only has the ability, it has the obligation to step in,” Vladeck said. “That they waited until yesterday suggests that they were either sandbagging the state court, or they came to this position recently.”
According to CNN, Carroll was an advice columnist for Elle Magazine, who accuses Trump in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s. Trump called her claims “totally false,” saying he “never met this person in my life,” CNN reported.