"While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me ... I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so," E. Jean Carroll said
Longtime Elle advice columnist E. Jean Carroll is suing President Donald Trump, arguing he defamed her while repeatedly denying her allegation that he raped her in a New York City department store in the 1990s.
According to her complaint filed on Monday — which has been reviewed by PEOPLE — Carroll’s attorneys said Trump’s statements that he didn’t know her and hadn’t assaulted her were both defamatory.
What’s more, her filing states, “Through express statements and deliberate implications, [Trump] accused Carroll of lying about the rape in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party, and make money. He also deliberately implied that she had falsely accused other men of rape. For good measure, he insulted her physical appearance.”
Each of these comments, Carroll’s complaint contends, was false and defamatory and Trump has caused her “emotional pain and suffering” and damaged “her reputation, honor, and dignity” and thus her career.
She is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.
“I am filing this lawsuit for every woman who’s been pinched, prodded, cornered, felt-up, pushed against a wall, grabbed, groped, assaulted, and has spoken up only to be shamed, demeaned, disgraced, passed over for promotion, fired, and forgotten,” Carroll, 75, said in a statement.
She continued: “Decades ago, the now President of the United States raped me. When I had the courage to speak out about the attack, he defamed my character, accused me of lying for personal gain, even insulted my appearance. No woman should have to face this.”
“While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than twenty years ago, I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so,” Carroll said.
In a characteristically barbed response to Carroll’s suit, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed her as a “fraud.”
“Let me get this straight — Ms. Carroll is suing the President for defending himself against false allegations? I guess since the book did not make any money she’s trying to get paid another way,” Grisham said in a statement.
“The story she used to try and sell her trash book never happened, period. Her version of events is not even feasible if you’ve ever tried on clothing in a dressing room of a crowded department store,” Grisham said. “The lawsuit is frivolous and the story is a fraud — just like the author.”
Carroll’s accusation first became public in late June when New York magazine published an excerpt of her memoir What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal. In that excerpt, she recounted in unsparing detail how Trump, 73, then a real estate mogul and New York personality, attacked her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in Manhattan.
According to that excerpt, Carroll ran into Trump at the store sometime between the fall of 1995 and the spring of 1996. “He says: ‘Hey, you’re that advice lady!’ ” she wrote. “And I say … ‘Hey, you’re that real-estate tycoon!’ “
The two had met before, Carroll wrote. (The two have also been photographed together, though Trump has dismissed that as an incidental moment that does not show they had any relationship).
Eventually the two made their way to the store’s lingerie section and into a dressing room where, according to Carroll, she believed she would succeed in having Trump jokingly try on a piece of women’s clothing.
“The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips,” she wrote. “I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.”
Carroll continued: “The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens [my] overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me.”
Amid their “colossal struggle,” Carroll wrote, she tried to push him away, tried to stomp on his feet, and was eventually able to get away and run out of the store. The altercation took three minutes or less.
She wrote that she did not report the incident to police and there were no witnesses; Bergdorf Goodman said they had no security footage from that time period, according to New York.
However, two unnamed friends of Carroll’s confirmed to New York that she told them what happened at the time. Their corroboration was also cited in Carroll’s Monday complaint.
Carroll is among the dozen-plus women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct or assault, including Natasha Stoynoff, a former PEOPLE writer who said she was attacked by him while reporting a story at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in 2005.
Trump has adamantly denied these accounts.
Carroll’s attorney Robbie Kaplan said in a statement Monday that “in her advice column, Carroll encourages her readers to be brave, to think clearly, and to seek justice. So Carroll has decided to follow her own advice.”