Barr defends DOJ intervention in E. Jean Carroll lawsuit against Trump: 'The law is clear'

Attorney general cites statute and case law in support of DOJ effort

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Attorney General William Barr explained why the Justice Department is looking to intervene in the defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll against President Trump, based on his denial of her allegation that he raped her in the 1990s.

The DOJ submitted a filing Tuesday in which they sought to have the case moved from New York state court to federal court and to have the United States take Trump's place as the defendant. According to Barr, this is a normal use of the Westfall Act, which allows this in cases involving alleged actions by federal employees made during the course of their employment.

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"The case law is crystal clear that the Westfall Act applies to claims against the president, the vice president, as well as other federal employees and members of Congress," Barr told reporters during a Wednesday news conference.

The news has sparked an uproar among Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who accused Barr of "acting as the President's personal lawyer."

Carroll sued Trump after he said in an interview with The Hill that Carroll was “not my type” and was “totally lying” when she accused him of raping her. He also said in a statement that he had never met her and that she was using the story to sell her book. An excerpt of the book that included the allegation was published by New York Magazine, along with a photograph of Trump and Carroll with their former spouses in the 1980s.

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An attorney for Carroll, Roberta Kaplan, slammed the DOJ's move on Tuesday: “Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent, and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out.”

Carroll also released a statement saying, “Today’s actions demonstrate that Trump will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government, to block discovery from going forward in my case before the upcoming election to try to prevent a jury from ever deciding which one of us is lying.”

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Barr further defended the move, citing the D.C. Circuit Court case involving then-congressman Cass Ballenger of North Carolina, who was found to have been acting “within the scope of employment” when he spoke about his marital status when responding to a reporter’s questions in his office.

“So this was a normal application of the law," the attorney general said. "The law is clear, it is done frequently, and the little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political climate in which we live.”

Fox News' Alex Pappas, Marta Dhanis, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.