The Justice Department’s attempt to block a defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump from E. Jean Carroll—a magazine columnist who has alleged he raped her—has been thrown out by a federal judge.
If the ruling had gone the other way, and the department had managed to substitute itself as the defendant instead of Trump personally, it would likely have abruptly ended the lawsuit as the federal government can’t be sued for defamation. However, the judge’s decision, which was made public Tuesday morning, means the lawsuit can go ahead.
Carroll filed a defamation suit against Trump last year after he denied her allegation that he raped her inside a luxury Manhattan department store dressing room sometime in the mid-'90s. Trump continues to deny the allegation, and Carroll has asked that he provide a DNA sample to the courts in order to determine whether his genetic material is on a dress she says she was wearing at the time of the alleged rape.
The Justice Department argued last month that, because Trump denied the rape allegation while he was president—and because it was that denial that sparked Carroll’s defamation suit—that the United States should be the defendant, and not Trump himself. Conveniently, that would have likely brought an end to the lawsuit and the request for his DNA sample.
However, in the ruling, District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote that the president isn’t a government employee, and went on to say: “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.”
In a statement, Carroll applauded the decision.
“When I spoke out about what Donald Trump did to me in a department store dressing room, I was speaking out against an individual. When Donald Trump called me a liar and denied that he had ever met me, he was not speaking on behalf of the United States,” it reads. “I am happy that Judge Kaplan recognized these basic truths. As the Judge recognized today, the question whether President Trump raped me 20 years ago in a department store is at ‘the heart’ of this lawsuit. We can finally return to answering that question, and getting the truth out.”
Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan said she was “very pleased” with the judge’s decision, and added, “The simple truth is that President Trump defamed our client because she was brave enough to reveal that he had sexually assaulted her, and that brutal, personal attack cannot be attributed to the Office of the President.” Kaplan said she “looks forward” to moving forward with the defamation case against Trump “in his personal capacity.”
After Carroll went public with her allegation last year, Trump claimed she lied about the incident to sell a book, and that she was “not [his] type.” Carroll said that damaged her reputation, so decided to sue.