President Trump is still fighting against having to face a defamation lawsuit by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who claimed in a book that the president raped her long before he was in office.
Lawyers for Carroll argued earlier this month that Trump can no longer claim to be immune from her defamation lawsuit simply because he is a sitting president, given a recent landmark decision by the Supreme Court. The court found in early July that a president is not immune from criminal investigations and subpoenas, stemming from an investigation into Trump’s financial dealings by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, which had demanded his tax records.
Now, lawyers for Trump claim the ruling does not apply to Carroll’s case, because it’s a civil lawsuit at the state level, not a criminal one, according to a letter sent late last week to the judge overseeing the case.
Carroll, a longtime magazine writer and advice columnist for Elle based in New York, filed her lawsuit against Trump late last year in New York state court alleging that he defamed her by publicly calling her accusation that he raped her in the mid-Nineties “fiction.” He also implied that she is paid as a Democratic operative, as is New York Magazine, where her allegation first appeared as part of a review of her book.
Admitting Trump is now not immune from criminal proceedings at the state level, given the decision in the Vance case, Trump’s lawyer insisted that there is no relevant ruling on civil actions, leaving him with immunity.
“State courts, under the Supremacy Clause, are not empowered to exercise any jurisdiction or control over the president’s official conduct,” attorney Marc Kasowitz wrote. “Moreover, the Supreme Court has made clear that its holdings concerning the amenability of the president to criminal process do not, as plaintiff would have it, extend ‘in a mechanistic fashion to civil litigation.’”
Carroll’s attorney’s argued broadly that “nothing in the [Vance] decision limits its analysis to criminal proceedings,” according to a letter to the judge.
“It follows directly from Vance that Trump’s assertions of immunity in this case, as well as his purported arguments for a stay, are completely baseless,” they added.
But Kasowitz isn’t giving it up, insisting that civil and criminal cases between state and federal courts offer different concepts of immunity.
He went on to argue that the Supreme Court’s decision in a separate case over the same issue of Trump refusing to hand over any of his tax or financial records, this time to the U.S. Congress, telling the lower court to do a further review of the scope of documents being requested, also works in favor of Trump’s immunity. By telling the court to do another review, Trump being forced to hand over any records to Congress is almost certainly delayed until after the upcoming November election.
“There is no pressing need for a state court to exercise control over a sitting president in a civil action, particularly because the action can be resumed when the president is no longer in office,” Kasowitz wrote.
Although Trump is trailing behind former Vice President Joe Biden in national voter polls on the election, he could win the November election. If the New York court sides with Trump’s argument now, it could mean he would not have to face Carroll’s claims until the beginning of 2025.
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