Trump Just Blew Up His Rape Lawsuit Defense

By ranting on Truth Social, it sure seems like the former president undermined one of his main defenses in a defamation case over an alleged sexual assault, legal experts say.
Former president Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally to support local candidates at the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 03, 2022 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Former president Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally to support local candidates at the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 03, 2022 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump’s recent online tirade against E. Jean Carroll might have been a really bad idea. 

That’s because the move appears to have blown a new hole in Trump’s best defense against the magazine columnist’s lawsuit, in which Carroll accuses Trump of defamation by denying her accusation that he raped her in a New York department store over two decades ago. 

Trump’s lawyers have argued for months that he can’t be held personally responsible in the suit because his denial took place during his presidency, and therefore fell under his official duties as president. But by repeating his denial last week in an online tirade posted on his social media site, Truth Social, and blasted out in an emailed statement, Trump essentially re-upped the activity at the heart of the lawsuit—at a time when he’s not the president anymore. 

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In other words, Trump may have just kicked the legs out from under one of his strongest legal defenses, according to Barbara McQuade, who previously served as Detroit’s top federal prosecutor. 

“She [Carroll] should amend her complaint to include an additional count based on the new statement,” McQuade told VICE News. “Because Trump is no longer president, this statement was most certainly not made in the scope of his federal employment.” 

Carroll accused Trump in 2019 of raping her in the dressing room of New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s. Trump then accused Carroll of “totally lying” while trying to sell a book, adding: “She’s not my type.” Trump’s denial prompted Carroll to launch her lawsuit accusing Trump of defaming her.

A court in Washington, D.C., is now weighing whether Trump’s denial took place in the context of his role as a federal employee. If the court rules that it did, then the United States would become the defendant in the lawsuit—and that would effectively make the lawsuit disappear, because the U.S. federal government cannot be sued for defamation.

“We are confident that the D.C. Court of Appeals will find that our client was acting within the scope of his employment when properly repudiating Ms. Carroll’s allegations,” Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, recently told the New York Times

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Last week, while that case is still pending, a New York judge ordered Trump to sit for a deposition on Wednesday, Oct. 19. That order touched off Trump’s latest tirade, in which he branded the lawsuit a “complete con job” and launched fresh attacks against Carroll. 

Trump acknowledged that he wasn’t “supposed to” repeat what he said about Carroll, but then went on to repeat it anyway. 

“It is a Hoax and a lie, just like all the other Hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years,” Trump wrote. “And, while I am not supposed to say it, I will: This woman is not my type!”

McQuade isn’t the only lawyer who thinks Trump stepped on a rake by re-upping his claims after his presidency.

Longtime Trump critic and conservative lawyer George Conway also noted that Trump’s statement was probably ill-advised. 

Conway castigated Trump on Twitter last week for issuing “a BRAND NEW statement REPEATING all the earlier defamatory statements, but since you're no longer POTUS, you NO LONGER HAVE THAT DEFENSE you've been pushing for years that you made the statements while you were president!!!”

A spokesperson for the law firm representing Carroll declined to comment. 

“The latest statement from Donald Trump obviously does not merit a response,” the spokesperson for the firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink, told VICE News. 

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