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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the Rayburn House Office Building on June 4. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland Wednesday demanded that the Department of Justice reverse its decision to continue defending former President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Why it matters: The members said the continuation "seems profoundly misguided" and requested that the department provide an explanation for its decision.

Context: Carroll, who claims Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, filed a defamation suit against Trump after he said she was "totally lying" about the accusation.

  • The Justice Department then filed a motion in September 2020 to intervene in the case and replace Trump's private lawyers with attorneys from the department, arguing that he was acting "within the scope of employment" when he said Carroll was lying.

What they're saying: "As a policy matter, we are concerned that DOJ has taken the position that federal officials act within the scope of their employment—and, therefore, enjoy immunity from civil liability—whenever they defame someone, so long as there is some connection between the statement and their official responsibilities," said the members, led by Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).

  • "Are we to understand that federal employees are free to engage in private tortious conduct for personal gain, so long as they maintain federal employment and can assert some pretextual benefit to the public for their actions?" they continued.
  • "President Trump’s disgusting comments about Ms. Carrol had nothing to do with his official responsibilities as President, and the whole world knows it. Survivors of sexual assault, among other victims, deserve better."

The big picture: As a candidate, President Biden criticized the DOJ's intervention in the case, though the White House has also distanced itself from the decision to continue defending Trump.

  • White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement Monday 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," Bates added.

Go deeper

Updated Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's DOJ defends Trump in E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit

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.

DOJ: Federal officers now required to wear body cameras when serving warrants

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Federal law enforcement agents will now be required to wear body cameras when making "pre-planned" arrests and when executing search warrants, the Justice Department said Monday.

The big picture: The new directive marks the end of a policy that prohibited federal officers from wearing body cameras. The Justice Department had previously argued body cameras posed "a potential risk to sensitive investigations," per NPR.

Colonial Pipeline CEO tells Congress paying ransom was "the right choice"

Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount defended his decision Tuesday to pay the hackers that launched a ransomware attack against the crucial fuel line, telling a Senate panel it was "the right choice" and that he put "the interests of the country first."

Why it matters: Federal investigators for years have recommended that companies do not pay hacking groups to decrypt their computer systems over fears that the transactions would encourage more groups to conduct future attacks.