A federal judge should reject the Justice Department’s claim that President Trump was acting in an official capacity and therefore protected against lawsuits when he disparaged a New York writer’s allegation that he raped her more than 20 years ago, a prominent legal expert at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel who won a landmark case on presidential immunity said today.
"In our country we don’t have kings, we don’t have royalty and we don’t have people who get a special privilege or pass because of their position, power or money," attorney Joseph Cammarata said. "We’re all equal before the bar of justice and the president is no different. When he acts in a way to protect himself for his own personal wellbeing and not that of the United States, he should not be shielded for his wrongdoing."
Former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump in New York state court last year after he denied her claim in a book that he raped her at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan during the 1990s. Trump accused Carroll of lying to sell books and was widely quoted as saying he would not have attacked her because "she’s not my type," according to the suit.
The lawsuit was brought against Trump personally, but the Justice Department last month had it moved to federal court and said the federal government should be the defendant, arguing that Trump’s comments were made in his official capacity as president because the rape claim addressed his fitness for office. Justice Department lawyers said Trump’s remarks fell under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a law that limits lawsuits against public officials over official actions.
The action could lead to Carroll’s lawsuit being dismissed, but the Justice Department’s position will be the subject of a hearing scheduled at 3:30 p.m. today in New York before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan.
Cammarata said the lawsuit should be allowed to move forward because the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously established in 1997’s Clinton v. Jones that a sitting president does not have immunity under federal civil law for incidents that took place unrelated to his official duties. Cammarata was lead counsel for Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who had filed a sexual harassment case against then-President Bill Clinton claiming he had propositioned her while governor in 1991.
"The action by the Department of Justice is another attempt to shield a president from personal responsibility for private misconduct," Cammarata said. "In the case of Clinton v. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled the president did not have immunity and should stand and be held accountable for private misconduct that took place before he took office. That ruling applied to President Clinton in 1997 and should apply to President Trump today."
Cammarata said a key issue in the current case is whether Trump’s "vile, vicious" comments about Carroll would "further the interests of the United States" or only serve his personal interests.
"I can’t imagine anyone would think that defamatory statements made by a President of the United States for purely private misconduct somehow benefit the people of the United States," Cammarata said.
Cammarata is a nationally known trial lawyer and partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel who has championed the rights of victims of discrimination and civil rights abuses in a number of high profile cases. In addition to the Jones case against Clinton, he represented seven women who claimed they were sexually abused and/or assaulted by comedian Bill Cosby and women who brought a class action lawsuit after they were secretly videotaped while participating in a spiritual bathing ritual at a synagogue in Washington.
About Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel
Joseph Cammarata, along with his partners Ira Sherman, Allan Siegel and Matthew Tievsky, are accident and injury lawyers who have served injured victims and families in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia for more than 45 years. The legal team is passionate about helping clients put their lives together after suffering injuries in preventable accidents.
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J. Craig Shearman (202) 257-3678