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Appeals court plans to prosecute Trump for rape denial


Carroll sued Trump in 2019, alleging he defamed her through several responses to his claim he trapped her in a locker room and raped her at the Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan in the 1990s.

After allowing the case to simmer for nearly a year, the Justice Department intervened by trying to end the litigation by taking over Trump’s defense and claiming that his answers to press questions about the trial de Carroll were part of his official duties as president.

The case also became a political headache for the Biden administration when his new Justice Department appointees, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, indicated in June that they planned to continue Trump’s defense.

Justice Department attorney Mark Freeman, who emphasized that he was representing the United States in the case and not Trump individually, began his remarks to the three-judge panel by disavowing Trump’s remarks.

“The former president made some crude and offensive comments in response to Ms. Carroll’s very serious charges of sexual assault. I’m not here to justify or defend those comments, ”Freeman said. “I’m here because any president faced with a public accusation like this, with the media very interested, would feel obligated to answer questions.

A New Jersey lawyer who recently took over much of the portfolio of persistent litigation against Trump, Alina Habba, told the court that she, too, is arguing on principle to defend the presidential office.

“This case, in my opinion, in his opinion, is without merit,” Habba said. “What’s of monumental importance right now is that it’s not a political question. It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican… This matter is important – if it is asserted, the future presidents will be needlessly hampered by frivolous lawsuits.

Habba said that if Trump is exposed to personal responsibility for his statements, President Joe Biden could be held responsible for suggesting that Illinois teenager Kyle Rittenhouse – who was recently acquitted of the murder of two men during of a demonstration – is a racist. A spokesperson denied that Biden intended to imply this.

“What will the court do if Kyle Rittenhouse attacks Pres. Biden for calling him a white supremacist?” Trump’s lawyer said. “They have to focus on their jobs. We are all flawed people.

Habba conceded that “an unprovoked attack on a citizen” would not be a president’s job, but Carroll essentially forced Trump to respond.

“She went to the press. She made it public… She was on the aggressor’s side, ”Habba said.

Carroll’s attorney, Joshua Matz, admitted that if Trump simply denied Carroll’s allegation, it would likely have been part of his role as president to assure people of his suitability.

“A job in the White House is not a promise of unlimited prerogative to brutalize the victim of wrongdoing through personally motivated attacks,” Matz said.

But several judges seemed concerned whether the courts could draw a line between simple denial and the type of proactive response that could put the president on the hook for civil action.

“You suggest that the President of the United States is always going to measure their language every time they speak to ask if they are articulating their thinking a little more or if they are losing their temper or whatever. other, in a way it’s the line between personal responsibility and no personal responsibility, ”said Trump-appointed Judge William Nardini. “So what’s the line? … A quieter tone?” “

Matz suggested that it was not at all unusual for a court or jury to decide what motivated someone to do a specific act. “Actually, it’s not weird. We do it in law all the time, ”he said.

Freeman, the DOJ lawyer, strongly disagreed. “This brings us into very dangerous territory,” he said.

Whether or not Trump’s response falls within the scope of his presidential duties is a potentially crucial question in the case. If it was, the lawsuit is essentially dead because federal law does not allow lawsuits against federal employees for torts like libel in these circumstances.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the Justice Department’s request that the U.S. government essentially step into Trump’s shoes in this case.

“The undisputed facts show that President Trump was not acting in the discharge of his duty to a defensible employer when he made the statements in question,” Kaplan wrote.

To some extent, the case blurs ideological lines. Liberal legal activists traditionally favor a broad view of the scope of employment because, in most cases, this approach allows individual complainants who claim to have suffered prejudice to access the employer’s deepest pockets.

However, in the circumstances of Carroll’s lawsuit, this broad view actually denies him relief because of the rules for prosecuting the federal government.

The panel gave no clear indication on Friday as to how it is likely to rule in the case. All of the judges appeared concerned about allowing libel lawsuits against a sitting president, but none said it was clear Congress had banned it.

Chin, a person appointed by President Barack Obama, also seemed skeptical that public officials should be given free rein to say anything just because the media might take notice. “Can a member of Congress on the steps of the Capitol or the White House say whatever he wants and be protected while a journalist is listening?” asked the judge.

Judge Guido Calabresi dominated much of the roughly 80-minute argument session with submissions on tort law, which he said he has taught for 62 years. Calabresi, a person appointed by President Bill Clinton, said the key issue of the lawsuit – the scope of employment – actually falls under District of Columbia law, not federal law.

Calabresi said that means the DC Supreme Court of the System, the DC Court of Appeals, should determine whether Trump’s actions were sufficiently employment-related to be considered part of his job.

“We don’t know if DC would say, ‘She’s not my type’ is part of the job of president or DC would say she isn’t,” Calabresi said. “It’s in DC”

Habba, Trump’s lawyer, seemed frustrated at the possibility of the case going to another court. She noted that Obama and former Senator Hillary Clinton also used the same law, the Westfall Act, to claim that their public statements were part of their official duties.

“I enjoy trying to make a new law, but it is done for a reason so that a president can address the concerns of the public. It’s her job to make this country feel safe, ”she said.

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