Trump’s presidential immunity claim in E Jean Carroll defamation suit rejected
"Appeals court upholds a federal judge’s decision to deny Trump’s claim of immunity, dealing him another legal setback
Donald Trump cannot assert presidential immunity from a defamation lawsuit by E Jean Carroll, the writer who accused him of rape, a US appeals court ruled on Wednesday, dealing him another setback in litigation she has pursued.
The second US circuit court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a federal judge’s decision to reject Trump’s claim of immunity.
Carroll in the lawsuit sought at least $10m in damages from Trump over comments he made in June 2019, when he was president, after she first publicly accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. Trump denied knowing Carroll, said she was not his “type”, and that she made up the rape claim to promote her upcoming memoir.
The former Elle magazine columnist sued in November 2019, but Trump waited until December 2022 before asserting that absolute presidential immunity shielded him from her lawsuit. Under this, a president has complete immunity from many types of civil lawsuits while in office.
In June Lewis Kaplan, the US district judge in Manhattan, rejected Trump’s bid to dismiss Carroll’s case and later refused to let Trump raise an immunity defense, citing the delay in seeking to invoke it and the public interest in accountability.
Trump’s appeal was heard on an expedited basis, ahead of a scheduled 16 January 2024 trial.
He has pursued a similar immunity defense in his federal criminal case in Washington in which he is accused of unlawfully trying to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election.
Carroll has already won one civil trial against Trump. In May, a jury in a second lawsuit awarded her $5m for sexual assault and defamation after Trump last October again denied her accusations. Trump is appealing that verdict.
On 6 September, Kaplan ruled that the jury’s findings in May applied to Carroll’s first lawsuit, making Trump’s denial defamatory. That left for trial only the issue of how much money Trump should pay Carroll in damages.
Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Joe Biden in the 2024 US election despite facing four federal and state criminal indictments. He has pleaded not guilty in those cases."