Judge rejects US request to shield Trump from rape accuser’s defamation lawsuit

Trump speaks during a campaign event, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Oct 26, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A federal judge on Tuesday (Oct 27) rejected a US government request to drop Donald Trump as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit by a writer who said the president falsely denied raping her in a Manhattan department store a quarter century ago.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan refused to let the government substitute itself for Trump as a defendant in former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit.

Mr Kaplan's decision is a defeat for Mr Trump, because dropping him as a defendant would have shielded him from liability and likely doomed Ms Carroll's defamation claim.

Acting at the behest of Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice has argued that Mr Trump acted in his official capacity when denying Ms Carroll's accusations, and therefore could not be sued personally for defamation.

But the judge said Mr Trump was not an "employee of the government" entitled to be shielded from Ms Carroll's claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Mr Kaplan also said Mr Trump did not make his statements within the scope of his "employment" as president.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ms Carroll's lawyers did not immediately respond to similar requests.

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