The Justice Department said it should take former President Donald Trump's place in a defamation lawsuit brought on by magazine columnist, E. Jean Carroll.
Carroll accused Trump of sexual assault. The lawsuit stems from his response following her accusations.
"Then-President Trump's response to Ms. Carroll's serious allegations of sexual assault included statements that questioned her credibility in terms that were crude and disrespectful," lawyers for the department wrote in a brief on Monday. "But this case does not concern whether Mr. Trump's response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll's allegations."
The Justice Department is arguing that because Trump was working in a government role his statements were made within the "scope of" his employment, so he shouldn't personally be the defendant in the case. They said he was answering questions asked to him in his "capacity as President," adding "elected public officials can — and often must — address allegations regarding personal wrongdoing that inspire doubt about their suitability for office."
"Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public concern is undoubtedly part of an elected official's job," the brief said. "Courts have thus consistently and repeatedly held that allegedly defamatory statements made in that context are within the scope of elected officials' employment -- including when the statements were prompted by press inquiries about the official's private life."
Last year, Carroll accused Trump of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s. She filed a lawsuit against him after he denied the allegations, saying Carroll was trying to "sell a book" and claimed that he had never met her.
He also said she wasn't his type.
Trump was initially a defendant in the case as a private citizen, but his Justice Department tried to replace him with the US, claiming the case was actually against a federal worker, not Trump personally. That effort was rejected by a federal judge last October.
Trump's Justice Department then appealed the ruling in January. Biden's Justice Department, however, continued the Trump administration's efforts when it filed the brief on Monday.
The White House did not respond to Insider's request for comment at the time of publication but spokesperson Andrew Bates told Politico: "The White House was not consulted by DOJ on the decision to file this brief or its contents. While we are not going to comment on this ongoing litigation, the American people know well that President Biden and his team have utterly different standards from their predecessors for what qualify as acceptable statements."
In an emailed statement, Roberta Kaplan, Carroll's attorney, told Insider she was disturbed by the continued efforts to defend Trump.
"It is horrific that Donald Trump raped E. Jean Carroll in a New York City department store many years ago," Kaplan said. "But it is truly shocking that the current Department of Justice would allow Donald Trump to get away with lying about it, thereby depriving our client of her day in court. The DOJ's position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward."