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Biden DOJ sides with Trump in defamation lawsuit after months of Democrat ridicule

Government lawyers argue that DOJ, not Trump, should be the defendant an E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit because the former president's comments occurred in his official capacity.

Updated: June 8, 2021 - 9:16am

The Biden Justice Department on Monday night sided with Donald Trump, telling a federal appeals court that the U.S. government — not the former president — should be the defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed while he was still in office by a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted.

Trump's response to E. Jean Carroll's allegations was made in his official duties as president and therefore shift any liability to the government, DOJ lawyers wrote in taking the same position as Trump's lawyers last year.

The filing is remarkable because then-candidate Joe Biden criticized Trump's position during the 2020 campaign, only to have his own DOJ come to the same legal conclusion.

"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," Justice Department lawyers wrote in a brief to the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals. "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."

Rather, the lawyers argued, the issue before the appeals court is one where liability rests when a government official makes statements during the normal course of the work.

"Speaking to the public and the press on matters of public concern is undoubtedly part of an elected official's job," the government lawyers wrote. "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."

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