Federal law cited by DOJ on move to replace personal lawyers and defend Trump in defamation suit

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Citing the law, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec brushed away criticism of the agency intervening in a defamation suit against President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, the DOJ moved to replace the president’s private legal team with its own lawyers in the lawsuit brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of raping her inside a Bergdorf Goodman department store on 5th Ave. more than 20 years ago.

The New York Times characterized the decision as “a highly unusual legal move.”

Appearing on “Fox News at Night,” Kupec referenced a federal statute to explain the decision.


(Source: Fox News)

“Well, the critics always have a problem with whatever President Trump does, so we don’t put much stock in the complaints of the critics these days,” Kupec said. “What we do at the Department of Justice, though, is we look at the law and the facts. Here, there is a law called the Westfall Act, and under that law, which is a federal statute, if a federal government employee is sued for actions taken while operating within the scope of his or her employment, the United States can be substituted as a defendant for that individual.”

“Here the president, acting as a federal employee and officer, was responding to allegations from the press regarding this woman, and he was doing so at the White House during the day,” she continued. “And again, responding to inquiries from the press admits a number of inquiries. In other words, he was doing his job. So we had the Department of Justice had a duty to defend a federal officer doing his or her job. And that’s what we are doing here.”

In a new court filing, the DOJ submitted that Trump was operating in his role as president when he denied Carroll’s allegations.

Host Shannon Bream noted that Carroll’s attorney claimed the DOJ getting involved is an attempt to place the president above the law.

In a statement Carroll shared on Twitter, attorney Roberta Kaplan said, “It offends me as a lawyer and offends me even more as a citizen.”

“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,” the release added.

Trump has denied the allegation, saying in June 2019 he doesn’t even know who Carroll is.

“I have no idea who she is. What she did is — it’s terrible, what’s going on,” he said. “So it’s a total false accusation and I don’t know anything about her. And she’s made this charge against others. And, you know, people have to be careful because they’re playing with very dangerous territory. And when they do that—and it’s happening more and more.”

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Tom Tillison

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