In Attorney General Bill Barr's latest attempt to help President Donald Trump avoid accountability for an alleged rape he is accused of committing in the 1990s, Barr on Monday argued in court filings that when the president denied columnist E. Jean Carroll's accusation last year, he was acting not on behalf of his own interests but in his capacity as a public servant representing the people of the United States.
"Given the president's position in our constitutional structure, his role in communicating with the public is especially significant," wrote Justice Department lawyers, who last month at Barr's direction replaced Trump's personal legal team to represent the president in the case, in a highly unusual move. "The president's statements fall within the scope of his employment for multiple reasons."
The statements the government lawyers were referring to include Trump's claim that Carroll was "not [his] type," that he had never met her despite photographic evidence to the contrary, and that she was a liar who was trying to sell books by accusing him of raping her in a department store more than two decades ago, long before Trump's political career began.
"There is not a single person in the United States — not the president and not anyone else — whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted," Carroll's attorneys wrote in response to the DOJ's claim on Monday.
Carroll, who sued Trump for defamation in a New York state court following his remarks, tweeted that she and her legal team are planning to argue in court that Trump's denial was "not an official act."
The DOJ lawyers' claim comes a month after Barr intervened in Carroll's case against Trump, both by replacing the president's legal representation and by attempting to transfer the lawsuit from the state court to a federal district court. Both moves suggest the DOJ aims to have the case treated as one that was filed against a government employee who is immune from defamation lawsuits, in order to have Carroll's case dismissed.
Former federal prosecutor and NBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner tweeted that Barr's latest action goes against the department's responsibility to work "on behalf of victims."
"Bill Barr is trying to use the DOJ to crush a victim," Kirschner said.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden last week criticized the president for using the DOJ as his "own law firm" to gain the upper hand in his legal troubles.
"'I'm being sued because a woman's accusing me of rape. Represent me. Represent me,'" Mr. Biden said in imitation of the president. "What's that all about?"