Joe Biden previously criticized Trump for treating the DOJ as a "private law firm," and the White House said this week it was unaware of the DOJ's latest legal filing

By Sean Neumann
June 08, 2021 01:30 PM
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Joe Biden, E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump
From left: President Joe Biden, columnist E. Jean Carroll, and former President Donald Trump
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Noted advice columnist E. Jean Carroll says she's "angry" and "offended" that the Biden-era Justice Department is still seeking to defend former President Donald Trump from her defamation lawsuit over her allegation that he raped her decades ago.

"As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault - the DOJ is trying to stop me from having that same right. I am angry! I am offended!" Carroll said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

Carroll's reaction comes after the DOJ on Monday night doubled down on its request to defend Trump, 74, in the defamation case stemming from Carroll saying that he sexually assaulted her in a New York City dressing room in the mid-1990s.

Carroll, 77, sued Trump in 2019 after he tweeted that she was "totally lying" about the rape and said she made up the allegation in order to help sell her memoir.

Trump also denied Carroll's allegation during an interview, saying: "No. 1: She's not my type."

Carroll argued in her suit that Trump's statements that he didn't know her and hadn't assaulted her were both defamatory as were claims that she was lying "in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party, and make money ... [and] that she had falsely accused other men of rape."

Carroll's suit argued that Trump caused her "emotional pain and suffering" and damaged "her reputation, honor, and dignity" and thus her career.

The DOJ, now under the Biden administration, said in its court filing Monday night that while Trump's response to the allegation was "crude and disrespectful," that did not change the underlying legal issues.

The government again contended his comments were made within the scope of the presidency.

"This case does not concern whether Mr. Trump's response was appropriate," the filing, obtained by PEOPLE, states. "Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll's allegations."

The DOJ's decision to re-up its request to defend Trump in court comes after Biden, 78, criticized his predecessor over the matter during the 2020 campaign.

"The Justice Department has turned into the president's private law firm," Biden reportedly said last year.

A Biden spokesperson told The New York Times that the White House was "not consulted" by the DOJ ahead of its filing, in keeping with his policy of trying to avoid politicizing legal matters.

"President Biden and his team have utterly different standards from their predecessors for what qualify as acceptable statements," the spokesperson said. (The White House did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.)

donald trump
Donald Trump
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Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan said in late April that it was "wrong and dangerous" for the DOJ to try and defend Trump in the case.

Kaplan, 55, voiced her disgust at the DOJ's renewed request in a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Tuesday.

"It is truly shocking that the current Department of Justice would allow Donald Trump to get away with lying about it, thereby depriving our client of her day in court," she said.

According to the Associated Press, a federal judge had initially denied the Trump administration's request to have the federal government defend him in the defamation suit.

But the DOJ appealed that decision days before Trump left office in January, and recommitted that stance this week.

The DOJ's argument is that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied Carroll's account, which would allow the government to represent him in court and render the suit moot.

Georgetown University Law Center professor Heidi Li Feldman told PEOPLE last year that if the DOJ was allowed to represent Trump, the situation would be a "win-win" for him. 

Such a decision would place legal costs on U.S. taxpayers and "opens the door for some pretty dangerous precedent about the scope of the president's employment," Feldman said.

Kaplan said the DOJ's request Monday is "not only legally wrong," but "it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward."

"Calling a woman you sexually assaulted a 'liar,' a 'slut,' or 'not my type,' as Donald Trump did here, is not the official act of an American president," Kaplan said.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.