The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that former President Donald Trump could be held accountable for derogatory remarks he made concerning a woman who accused him of rape.
Previously, its legal team contended that Mr. Trump was legally protected as he was in office when he made the comments in 2019.
However, on Tuesday, government lawyers declared they no longer have a “sufficient basis” to infer that Mr. Trump had acted within his presidential duties.
This development propels E Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against Mr. Trump.
In May, Mr. Trump was compelled to pay the former magazine columnist $5m (£3.9m) after being held accountable for sexually abusing her in 1996 at a New York department store.
Ms. Carroll, who is 79 years old, is now pursuing $10m from Mr. Trump in a defamation lawsuit, set to go to trial in January.
His 2019 comments about her, made while responding to press inquiries during his presidency, are cited in the legal proceedings.
The lawsuit has been revised to include additional comments he made about her during a CNN town hall the day subsequent to the court ruling two months prior.
The justice department had earlier maintained that Mr. Trump could be defended by government lawyers because he was operating in his role as president when he made the comments.
However, on Tuesday its legal team stated “there is no longer a sufficient basis to conclude that the former president was motivated by ‘more than an insignificant’ desire to serve the United States Government”.
In a document submitted to the judge overseeing the case, the justice department expressed that “Mr. Trump was motivated by a ‘personal grievance’ stemming from events that occurred many years prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency”.
The document also mentioned new evidence that has surfaced since Mr. Trump, now 77, departed from office, referring to the Manhattan civil trial earlier this year.
The justice department stated that although Mr. Trump’s comments were broadcasted via official channels, they were in response “to a purely personal incident: an alleged sexual assault that occurred decades prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency”.
Ms. Carroll’s attorney expressed satisfaction over the justice department’s revised stance.
“We have always believed that Donald Trump made his defamatory statements about our client in June 2019 out of personal animus, ill will, and spite, and not as president of the United States,” stated Roberta A Kaplan.