NEW YORK, Dec. 3 (Reuters) – A lawyer for Donald Trump on Friday urged a U.S. appeals court to declare the former president immune from the libel lawsuit of perpetrator E. Jean Carroll arising from his allegation according to which he allegedly raped her, an argument according to Carroll’s lawyer. put it “above the law”.
Trump’s attorney Alina Habba told a three-judge panel at the U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals in Manhattan that letting Carroll sue could undermine the presidency by triggering “frivolous” lawsuits when the president s’ expresses on public matters.
“It’s not a political issue,” Habba told the judges. “It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican.”
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Carroll, a longtime Elle magazine columnist, accused Trump in a June 2019 book excerpt of raping her in late 1995 or early 1996 in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in midtown Manhattan.
She sued Trump for libel in November 2019 after Trump told a reporter he didn’t know Carroll, said ‘she’s not my type’ and accused her of concocting the rape allegation to sell his book.
Carroll’s attorney Joshua Matz said Trump acted on “private motives” when speaking and was not protected by a federal law that protects government employees from defamation complaints.
“To deny a remedy in the name of the sovereign immunity of the nation is at odds with the maxim that no one is above the law,” Matz said.
The court of appeal did not rule immediately.
The judges have given strong signals that they could postpone a decision and ask a Washington-based court to find out whether the law protects Trump there.
“I don’t know if DC would say ‘she’s not my type’ is part of the job of president,” said circuit judge Guido Calabresi.
‘GROSS AND OFFENSIVE’
Circuit judge Denny Chin asked Habba, “So you take a categorical approach: whatever he does, whatever he says, is an act of the United States?”
“This is my position to an extent,” Habba replied, “and frankly, it has never been questioned until now.”
William Nardini, the third judge of the panel, questioned whether there was a “limiting principle” against forcing presidents to measure their language every time they speak, and not risk being held. responsible if they “lose their temper”.
Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration sided with Trump in the appeal, despite what Justice Department attorney Mark Freeman called the businessman’s “rude and offensive comments” Republican turned politician in response to Carroll’s “very serious” accusations.
“Any president faced with such a public accusation that the media is very interested in would feel compelled to answer questions,” Freeman said.
Trump’s Justice Department, acting at the behest of then Attorney General William Barr, tried to replace the government as a defendant in the Carroll case, which could doom him. The Biden administration essentially adopted this argument.
Carroll’s attorneys have said they want to question Trump under oath and obtain a DNA sample from him to compare with a dress Carroll said she was wearing during the alleged rape.
Trump said Wednesday he plans to prosecute Carroll under New York state law for impeding his freedom of speech.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice” who accused him of sexual assault, abruptly ended her own libel case against Trump on November 12. Trump had called his allegations a “hoax.”
The case is Carroll v Trump et al, 2nd US Court of Appeals, Nos.20-3977, 20-3978.
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Report by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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