A New York federal judge said he will hear oral arguments later this month to consider if the Justice Department can represent President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, a former magazine columnist who has accused the President of rape.
Judge Lewis Kaplan, in an order on Friday, said oral arguments in the case will be held in person on October 21.
The hearing suggests the judge could make a decision soon in the case, the outcome of which could have significant implications for the President. Carroll’s attorneys were moving to obtain a DNA sample from Trump and take his deposition under oath.
The Justice Department sought to intervene in the case and replace Trump as the defendant in the defamation lawsuit last month. The Justice Department made the move saying it was representing the President as he was acting in his official capacity when he disparaged Carroll and denied sexually assaulting her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman in the mid 1990s. Trump has denied the allegation.
The request and possible change of lawyers could further delay the lawsuit, or even kill it entirely. Should the Justice Department be allowed to take over, it could mean the end of Carroll’s lawsuit as the federal government can’t be sued for defamation, noted CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law school professor Steve Vladeck.
On Monday, Carroll’s lawyers filed a motion asking the judge for the hearing. They argued the judge should block the Justice Department from intervening in the case saying to allow it would “distort the law.”
“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,” the filing said.
The Justice Department’s written response is due October 19.
Carroll sued Trump in state court in November 2019, accusing him of defamation when he responded to reporters’ questions about Carroll’s assault allegations, which were described in a June 2019 excerpt of her book published in New York magazine.
Trump denied raping Carroll, telling reporters, “She’s not my type.” Trump also alleged Carroll lied about the rape to boost her book sales.
Trump’s private attorneys challenged the lawsuit, but in August, a state trial court judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed. Carroll’s lawyers had previously filed motions indicating they wanted to obtain a sample of DNA from the President to compare with DNA of an unidentified male that was obtained from the black Donna Karan dress Carroll says she wore the day of the alleged attack. Her lawyers also said they would seek to question Trump under oath.
On the date of the deadline for Trump to file an appeal of the state court decision, the Justice Department filed its motion in federal court seeking to substitute itself for the President.
Attorney General William Barr last month confirmed that the White House had asked the Justice Department to take over the case. Barr called news articles highlighting that taxpayers were now paying for the President’s personal legal dispute “inaccurate.”
This story has been updated with additional background information.