President Trump might be getting some help from the Justice Department with the lawsuit one of his accusers filed against him last year. E. Jean Carroll, who says Trump raped her at a Manhattan department store in the 1990s, sued him for defamation over his public denial of ever having met her; she says that statement, made in 2019, was a lie. Indeed, the two were once photographed together in 1987. On Tuesday, the DoJ moved to replace the president's private legal team with government lawyers who would defend him in the case, a move the New York Times calls "highly unusual" and CNN calls "extraordinary." Lawyers for the department argue in court papers that Trump "was acting within the scope of his office" when he issued the denial, and that's why he's entitled to be defended by government lawyers and for the case to be moved from state court to federal court.
Needless to say, the motion isn't going over well in certain circles. "TRUMP HURLS BILL BARR AT ME," she tweeted. Her lawyer accuses Trump of attempting to "wield the power of the US government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct." One uninvolved law professor puts it this way: "The question is, is it really within the scope of the law for government lawyers to defend someone accused of lying about a rape when he wasn’t even president yet?" Sources at the DoJ who were shocked at the move note that Trump also remarked on Carroll's physical appearance when he made his comments and it's not clear whether that would be considered within the scope of presidential duties. One expert says if the motion is accepted, the suit could end up dead in the water because the federal government can't be sued for defamation. Bloomberg notes that even if not accepted, the move could delay Carroll from getting the potentially damaging evidence she wants before Election Day. (Read more E. Jean Carroll stories.)