Sep 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bill Barr defends DOJ action in Trump defamation lawsuit

Attorney General William Barr during an event in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on August 4, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Attorney General William Barr. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House asked the Department of Justice to intervene in the defense of President Trump's defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, who's accused him of rape, Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday.

Driving the news: Carroll said the DOJ's move to replace Trump's private lawyers in the case shows that he "will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government," to block her. But Barr said the intervention was "a normal application of the law."

What he's saying: "The law is clear. It is done frequently," Barr said during a news conference in Chicago. "And the little tempest that's going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live."

  • He told "NBC Nightly News" Wednesday evening that it's "not particularly unusual" for the DOJ to intervene.
  • Barr said officials followed the Westfall Act, "which says that if someone is an employee of the executive branch or the legislative, and they are sued for a state tort that occurred in the course of them working for the government — of their duties for the government — then they can have it certified to be moved to federal court, and the United States is then substituted as the party."
"This is done frequently. It's been done for presidents. It's been done for congressmen. The normal process was followed in this particular case."
— Bill Barr

Background: The DOJ and White House said Tuesday that Trump was "acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States" when he said last year that Carroll was "totally lying" about claims that he raped her in the mid-1990s.

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