Donald Trump loses immunity shield in defamation lawsuit

Letter said new evidence had emerged since he left office in early 2021.

Washington: The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that former President Donald Trump should not be entitled to immunity for the comments he made about a woman who has accused him of rape, allowing the civil lawsuit to move forward to trial in January 2024.

E. Jean Carroll, 79, is currently seeking $10 million in the defamation lawsuit against Trump for the statements he made while President — denying her allegation of rape decades earlier’ that he didn’t know her’ and that she wasn’t his “type”.

The DOJ had previously taken the position that Trump could be defended by government attorneys because he was serving in his capacity as President when he made the remarks, the BBC reported.

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But on Tuesday, Department lawyers said “there is no longer a sufficient basis to conclude that the former President was motivated by ‘more than an insignificant’ desire to serve the US government”.

In a letter filed with the judge presiding over the case, the DOJ said: “Mr Trump was motivated by a ‘personal grievance’ stemming from events that occurred many years prior to Mr Trump’s presidency.”

The letter said new evidence had emerged since he left office in early 2021.

The DOJ added that though Trump’s comments were made via official channels, the accusation that prompted the statements were in regards “to a purely personal incident: an alleged sexual assault that occurred decades prior to Mr Trump’s presidency”.

In addition, in a separate lawsuit brought by Carroll last year under a New York law allowing a one-year lookback for civil claims involving sexual assaults, a federal jury in May found that Trump sexually abused Carroll in a luxury department store dressing room in the spring of 1996 and awarded her $5 million for battery and defamation, reports CNN.

Trump, who is appealing the decision, does not face any jail time as a result of the civil verdict.

Welcoming the development, Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan said on Tuesday they were “grateful that the Department of Justice has reconsidered its position”.

“We have always believed that Donald Trump made his defamatory statements about our client in June 2019 out of personal animus, ill will, and spite, and not as President of the United States,” CNN quoted Kaplan as saying.

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