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Combination images of former President Trump and E. Jean Carroll. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images/Eva Deitch for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden's Department of Justice indicated in a court filing Monday night that it's continuing with the DOJ's defense of former President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Why it matters: When President Biden was a presidential candidate last year, he criticized the DOJ's highly unusual move to intervene and replace Trump's private lawyers with attorneys from the department, per the New York Times.

  • But Biden's DOJ is continuing with the previous administration's argument that Trump was acting "within the scope of employment" as president when he said in 2019 that Carroll was "totally lying" about claims that he raped her in the mid-1990s, according to the new filing to the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Driving the news: The Justice Department is appealing a federal judge's decision last October that Trump couldn't use a law protecting federal employees from lawsuits for actions conducted within their scope of office.

Details: "Even reprehensible conduct ... can fall within the scope of employment," attorneys for the DOJ wrote in a brief, alongside supporting arguments from Trump's personal lawyers.

  • Trump's response to Carroll's "serious allegations of sexual assault included statements that questioned her credibility in terms that were crude and disrespectful," they said.
  • "But this case does not concern whether Mr. Trump's response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll's allegations."

What they're saying: Roberta Kaplan, Carroll's attorney, said in a statement the Biden administration's legal action was legally and morally wrong. Addressing her client's rape allegation, she said:

"It is horrific that Donald Trump raped E. Jean Carroll in a New York City department store many years ago. But it's truly shocking that the current DOJ would allow Donald Trump to get away with lying about it, thereby depriving our client of her day in court."
  • Carroll said in an emailed statement, "As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault — the DOJ is trying to stop me from having that same right. I am angry! I am offended!"

The other side: White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in an emailed statement that the White House "was not consulted by DOJ on the decision to file this brief or its contents."

  • "While we are not going to comment on this ongoing litigation, the American people know well that President Biden and his team have utterly different standards from their predecessors for what qualify as acceptable statements," added Bates, stressing that it was a DOJ matter as it's active litigation.
  • Representatives for the Biden administration, Trump and Carroll did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Obama slams Republicans for embracing election conspiracy theories

Former President Obama during a rally in Flint, Michigan, last December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former President Obama in an interview with CNN broadcast Monday criticized "large portions of Congress" for "going along with the falsehood that there were problems" with the 2020 election.

Driving the news: Obama noted to CNN's Anderson Cooper that Republicans spoke out against former President Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, but then "poof, suddenly everybody was back in line."

Jun 8, 2021 - World

CNN obtains audio of Giuliani pressing Ukrainian official on Biden

Rudy Giuliani, former President Trump's personal lawyer, at the White House last September. Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CNN has obtained audio of a July 2019 call by Rudy Giuliani in which he suggests to an Ukrainian official that the country could have a "better relationship" with the U.S. if it investigated Joe Biden.

Why it matters: The call shows the extent of pressure Giuliani put on Ukraine to investigate the then-Democratic presidential nominee and his son, Hunter Biden, for unsubstantiated corruption claims — a matter that was central to former President Trump's first impeachment.

Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Pro-McConnell PAC prepared to intervene in 2022 primaries

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

A super PAC closely aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is prepared to intervene in GOP primaries — and potentially challenge former President Trump — as it looks for the most viable candidates to reclaim the Senate.

Driving the news: Trump’s weekend endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) in his state's 2022 Senate race put the GOP establishment on notice that party leaders won’t necessarily get to handpick their preferred candidates for the crucial midterms.

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