On Sunday, May 8, a federal judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll accusing former President Donald Trump of defamation. Carroll had accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, and then defaming her by publicly denying the alleged assault and claiming that she had made it up to sell books. Trump had also insulted Carroll’s looks, suggesting that he would not have sexually assaulted her because she was not his type.
Carroll sued Trump in 2019 for defamation, but Trump had argued that he was immune from such lawsuits because he had made the allegedly defamatory remarks while he was president. The Department of Justice (DOJ) had also intervened in the case, arguing that Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied the alleged assault and that the federal government should replace Trump as the defendant in the case. However, the DOJ under President Joe Biden reversed its position and declined to defend Trump in court, allowing Carroll’s lawsuit to proceed.
In her ruling, Judge Lewis Kaplan agreed with Trump’s argument that he was immune from lawsuits over his official duties as president, and therefore the lawsuit must be dismissed. Kaplan rejected Carroll’s argument that Trump’s alleged defamation was not part of his official duties, noting that Trump’s denial of the alleged assault was made in response to media inquiries about his fitness for office, and therefore was related to his duties as president.
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said in a statement that she planned to appeal the ruling, arguing that it was wrong as a matter of law and contrary to the facts of the case. Kaplan also criticized the DOJ for changing its position on the case, saying that it had failed to uphold the rule of law and had undermined the rights of sexual assault survivors.
The ruling is a setback for Carroll and other women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, as it effectively shields Trump from accountability for his alleged actions and statements. It is also a blow to the #MeToo movement and efforts to hold powerful men accountable for sexual harassment and assault. However, some legal experts say that the ruling was based on narrow and technical legal grounds, and that it may not have broader implications for other cases or investigations involving Trump.
In conclusion, the federal judge’s decision to dismiss E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump is a setback for her and other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. The ruling was based on Trump’s argument that he was immune from lawsuits over his official duties as president, and the judge agreed with him. The ruling may be appealed, but for now, it effectively shields Trump from accountability for his alleged actions and statements.