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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

Trump voices support for Saturday's pro-Capitol riots rally

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with people facing prosecution in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The statement was issued ahead of Saturday's rally to protest the treatment of Capitol rioters. Over 600 known federal defendants face charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Swing voters' split feelings about Afghanistan

An Afghanistan flag waves in front of the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 28. Photo: Liz Lynch/Getty Images

Some swing voters say they're deeply disappointed with the execution of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Yes, but: They don't believe former President Trump would have handled it better than President Biden, and the issue is far less important to them than getting the pandemic under control.

Mayors feel powerless to reduce homelessness

Expand chart
Recreated from 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

America's mayors know their constituents hold them accountable for homelessness, but many don't feel they have the tools or power to fix things, a brand new survey says.

Why it matters: While homelessness has become more acute during the pandemic, city leaders say they lack the money, staff or political support needed to make a meaningful difference.