Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee blasted the Biden administration’s Justice Department for its “misguided” decision to continue to represent former President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who claims Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s.
“That decision seems profoundly misguided,” Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We write to urge you to reconsider.”
Justice Department lawyers have sought to continue to defend Trump in the lawsuit filed by columnist E. Jean Carroll, despite President Biden saying as a candidate it was inappropriate for the Justice Department to attempt to intervene in a private legal battle over Trump’s personal conduct.
The Justice Department filed a brief on Monday after a federal court ruled in October that the department cannot take Trump’s place as the defendant. The DOJ lawyers argued that Trump cannot be held personally liable for “crude and disrespectful” remarks he made about Carroll because he said them while he was president.
Carroll claimed in 2019 that Trump sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s at the Bergdorf Goodman upscale Manhattan department store. Trump responded by vehemently denying the assault, accusing Carroll of “totally lying” about the incident and saying he couldn’t have engaged in any sexual conduct with her because “she’s not my type.” Carroll then filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump.
Former Attorney General William Barr sought to intervene in the civil case when Trump was president, drawing criticism from Democrats and then-candidate Biden.
The House Democrats, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, said the Justice Department should not be spending taxpayer dollars to defend Trump. The Democrats raised concerns about the Justice Department setting a new policy standard on immunity for personal conduct.
“President Trump’s disgusting comments about Ms. Carroll had nothing to do with his official responsibilities as President, and the whole world knows it,” the Democrats wrote. “Survivors of sexual assault, among other victims, deserve better.”
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, called the Justice Department’s brief defending Trump “shocking” in a statement to Fox News earlier this week.
“It is horrific that Donald Trump raped E. Jean Carroll in a New York City department store many years ago,” Kaplan said in a statement. “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.”
The White House distanced itself from the Justice Department’s decision, in keeping with Biden’s stance to not influence the Attorney General’s moves.
“This is in active litigation, and so we refer you to the Department of Justice concerning its court filings,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told Fox News this week. “The White House was not consulted by DOJ on the decision to file this brief or its contents. And 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.”
Fox News’ Evie Fordham, David Spunt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.