The US Justice Department had tried to intervene by representing Mr Trump against the lawsuit by writer E Jean Carroll, who claims he falsely denied raping her.
A federal judge has rejected a US government request to drop Donald Trump as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit by a writer who said the president falsely denied raping her in a Manhattan department store a quarter of a century ago.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan on Tuesday refused to let the government substitute itself for Mr Trump as a defendant in former Elle magazine columnist E Jean Carroll’s lawsuit.
A ruling for the government would have shielded Mr Trump from liability and likely doomed Ms Carroll’s defamation claim.
Ms Carroll had sued Mr Trump last November in a New York state court, after he had denied having raped her in Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s or knowing who she was. Mr Trump said she fabricated the story to sell a new book, and added: “She’s not my type». Acting at the behest of Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice moved the case to federal court, where it said Mr Trump acted in his official capacity when denying Ms Carroll’s claims, and thus could not be sued personally for defamation.
But Mr Kaplan said a law shielding federal employees from being sued for acts done during their employment did not cover presidents. He also said Mr Trump did not make his statements about Ms Carroll in the scope of his employment as president.
“No one even arguably directed or controlled President Trump when he commented on the plaintiff’s accusation, which had nothing to do with the official business of government, that he raped her decades before he took office,” Mr Kaplan wrote in a 61-page decision. “And no one had the ability to control him.” Ms Carroll’s lawsuit is one of many legal actions Mr Trump faces as he seeks reelection on 3 November.
He has denied the claims of several women who accused him of sexual misconduct occurring before he took office.
Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Carroll, said they looked forward to pursuing the defamation case in federal court.
“The simple truth is that President Trump defamed our client because she was brave enough to reveal that he had sexually assaulted her, and that brutal, personal attack cannot be attributed to the Office of the President,” she said.
Ms Carroll said in a statement: “When Donald Trump called me a liar and denied that he had ever met me, he was not speaking on behalf of the United States. I am happy that Judge Kaplan recognised these basic truths.” The Justice Department moved the lawsuit to federal court after Justice Verna Saunders of a Manhattan state court had in August rejected Mr Trump’s bid to postpone the case.