Donald Trump’s immunity in rape accuser’s defamation case unclear

Former President Donald Trump may still be eligible for immunity in a libel case brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape.

A federal appeals panel on Tuesday reversed a lower court ruling that found Trump failed to act in his presidency in June 2019 when he called Carroll a liar after she claimed he had confronted her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman forced.

In October 2020, US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Carroll could sue Trump as a private individual and not as President, leaving Trump solely responsible for any damages.

But the Justice Department appealed, arguing that Trump was a government official when he made the comments and was entitled to immunity.

Tuesday’s ruling also moves the case to DC’s Court of Appeals for a final decision. If they rule in Carroll’s favour, the case will go to trial in February.

The 2-to-1 majority did not say whether they believe Trump raped Carroll or defamed her. But in his dissent, Judge Denny Chin made his feelings clear.

“[T]The remark “she’s not my type” is certainly not something that would be expected of the President of the United States in the course of his duties,” Chin said. “Carroll’s allegations plausibly paint a picture of a man pursuing a personal vendetta against an accuser, not the Chief Constitutional Officer of the United States.”

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Carroll filed the defamation lawsuit after she accused Trump of raping her at the Midtown department store in the mid-’90s. Trump insisted she was lying and that she was “not my type” when the allegations emerged.

The Justice Department said last summer it would continue to represent Trump in the case. His attorneys have taken the position that it is not the conduct they want to protect him from, but a federal employee’s right to be protected from lawsuits.

Trump attorney Alina Habba said that future presidents could “rule effectively without hindrance” if they allowed the Justice Department to represent him.

Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said she was confident the DC panel was on her side. She said holding presidents legally accountable is now more important than ever.

“The world was a very different place when this case was briefed and heard in December 2021. At the time, Judge Calabresi used the hypothesis that a president injured an innocent bystander while playing golf,” she told the Daily News.

“In light of what happened today, January 6, the courts have to worry about something previously unimaginable — that of a President taking action as part of a plan to overthrow our democracy.”

Carroll plans to sue Trump on November 24 for sexual assault under the Adult Survivors Act.