A federal judge has denied President Donald Trump’s request that the United States should replace him as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit which alleges he raped a woman in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.
The decision by district judge Lewis A Kaplan came after the US justice department argued that the United States – and by extension the American people – should replace Mr Trump as the defendant in a lawsuit filed by the columnist E Jean Carroll.
The US government’s lawyers contended that the United States could step in as the defendant because Mr Trump was forced to respond to her lawsuit to prove he was physically and mentally fit for the job.
The judge ruled that a law protecting federal employees from being sued individually for things they do within the scope of their employment did not apply to a president.
Judge Kaplan wrote: “The president of the United States is not an employee of the government within the meaning of the relevant statutes.
“Even if he were such an employee, President Trump’s allegedly defamatory statements concerning Ms Carroll would not have been within the scope of his employment.
“Accordingly, the motion to substitute the United States in place of President Trump is denied.”
Lawyers for Ms Carroll had written that “only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted”.
The justice department relied solely on written arguments in the dispute after its lawyer was banned from a Manhattan federal courthouse last week because he had not quarantined for two weeks after traveling to New York from a state on a list of those whose coronavirus test rates were high.
Ms Carroll, a former advice columnist for Elle magazine, said in her lawsuit that in the autumn of 1995 or the spring of 1996 she and Mr Trump met in a chance encounter when they recognised each other at the Bergdorf Goodman store.
She said they engaged in a light-hearted chat about trying on a see-through lilac-grey bodysuit when they made their way to a dressing room, where she said Mr Trump pushed her against a wall and raped her.
Mr Trump said Ms Carroll was “totally lying” to sell a memoir and that he had never met her, even though a 1987 photo showed them and their then-spouses at a social event.
He said the photo captured a moment when he was standing in a line.
Ms Carroll, who wants unspecified damages and a retraction of Mr Trump’s statements, also seeks a DNA sample from Mr Trump to see whether it matches as-yet-unidentified male genetic material found on a dress that she says she was wearing during the alleged attack.
Ms Carroll has come forward publicly with her claims.