Former President Donald Trump and his attornies are attempting to convince the D.C. Court of Appeals that when Trump slandered his rape accuser, New York author E. Jean Carroll, it was done within the boundaries of his official duties as president.
In a recent filing, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba claimed that the former president’s comments, which include that Carroll’s allegations were made simply to sell books and that she’d “made this charge against others,” were protected because Trump was acting on behalf of the American people, Bloomberg reports.
Habba’s filing reads in part: “More than any other public official, the President is expected to respond to questions from the media that affect his ability to maintain the trust of the American people … Responding to accusations involving personal matters that may affect his ability to perform his job duties is clearly within the scope of such employment.”
RELATED STORY: Four U.S. states voted against slavery in the midterms. One did not
On Wednesday President Joe Biden’s Justice Department sided with Trump, citing similar cases and the claim that his comments about Carroll were, in fact, made in his duties as president.
“An elected federal official’s scope of employment includes communicating with the press and constituents on matters of public concern, including allegations bearing on the official’s fitness for public office,” the Department of Justice said in the Wednesday brief.
The court additionally agreed with Trump’s argument that, as president, under the Westfall Act, he qualifies as a government employee and is therefore protected from civil suits related to his job.
According to Just Security, “The Westfall Act provides that if a federal employee is sued in her individual capacity for a tort committed while acting within the scope of employment, ‘the United States shall be substituted as the party defendant,’ and the employee will be dismissed from the case.”
Trump was deposed in the case on Oct. 19 at Mar-a-Lago, The New York Times reports. The former president has vehemently denied Carroll’s allegations that he raped her in the Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman store in the mid-1990s. Trump has said that Carroll was “totally lying,” adding, “she’s not my type.”
Habba has asked the court to use a 2003 suit as precedent when the late North Carolina Congressman Cass Ballenger made disparaging comments to a reporter comparing a Muslim nonprofit to the “fundraising arm” of a terrorist group, per Bloomberg.
The court ruled in favor of Ballenger, saying he was protected under the Westfall Act as he was commenting within his official duties. Habba continues to allege that Trump’s case is no different.
According to Bloomberg, the case could move to a trial phase. On Jan. 10 the court will hold oral arguments.