Former President Trump cannot be held personally liable for “crude" and “disrespectful” remarks he made while president about a woman who accused him of rape, Justice Department lawyers said Monday in arguing for him to be replaced by the United States as defendant in a defamation lawsuit. The lawyers told the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that responding to allegations of misconduct falls within activities that form part of any president’s office, the AP reports. Trump was acting “within the scope of his office" in denying wrongdoing after White House reporters asked him about claims by columnist E. Jean Carroll in a June 2019 book that he attacked her in the mid-1990s at an upscale Manhattan department store, the lawyers from the Washington office of the Justice Department wrote.
"Elected public officials can—and often must—address allegations regarding personal wrongdoing that inspire doubt about their suitability for office," the lawyers said. “Such wrongdoing can include not only the serious charges of criminal behavior leveled here, but a range of activities including fraud and malfeasance. Officials do not step outside the bounds of their office simply because they are addressing questions regarding allegations about their personal lives," they said. “Even reprehensible conduct ... can fall within the scope of employment." The lawyers conceded that comments attacking Carroll's appearance, impugning her motives and implying she had made false accusations against others “were without question unnecessary and inappropriate." But they said they “all pertained to the denial of wrongdoing." (More here, including Carroll's response.)