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National News

Judge Rules Presidency Does Not Protect Trump from Rape Charge

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Judge Rules Presidency Does Not Protect Trump from Rape Charge

2020-08-07 16:31:49

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: E. Jean Carroll (Image source: Screenshot)

Still reeling from the Supreme Court deciding against him last week and allowing the Manhattan district attorney to continue pursuing criminal charges, Donald Trump is now facing a defamation lawsuit about an alleged rape going one step further.

A longtime Elle magazine advice columnist, E. Jean Carroll, publicly alleged last year that Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store dressing room. She says it happened in the mid-1990s after they ran into each other and discussed trying on a bodysuit.

The president says she's "totally lying" to sell a memoir and claims to have never met her. A 1987 photo shows the two of them and their then-spouses at a social event. He claims he was standing in line when the photo was taken.

Manhattan judge Verna Saunders cited last month's Supreme Court ruling that Trump isn't immune to a criminal investigation. She explained that the same principle applies to Carroll's defamation suit against him. But Trump's legal team has said the Constitution bars sitting presidents from being included in lawsuits in state courts.

"No, it does not," wrote Saunders.

Her ruling allows Carroll to keep pursuing her case, which is also seeking Trump's DNA as evidence. She claims he slurred her when he denied raping her. The suit seeks damages and a retraction of his statement, alleging that they hurt her career and reputation.

"We are now eager to move forward with discovery so that we can prove that Donald Trump defamed E. Jean Carroll when he lied about her in connection with her brave decision to tell the truth about the fact that Donald Trump had sexually assaulted her," said Roberta Kaplan, Carroll's attorney.

Carroll wants a sample of the president's DNA to match it up with the unidentified male genetic material that was found on a dress that she was wearing when he allegedly raped her. She didn't wear it again until a photo shoot last year.

Trump's legal team has argued that the case should not proceed until New York's highest court decides a separate case seeking to clarify whether an incumbent president is shielded from all state-court suits that are unrelated to his official duties.

Previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions have stated incumbent presidents can't be sued anywhere over official actions. This prevents the cases fro influencing their decision-making. Yet, they are still subject to federal civil suits regarding private behavior. It has not addressed whether a president's personal conduct can be brought into state courts.

Carroll's attorneys argued that the U.S. justices settled this question when they ruled that the Manhattan D.A. can subpoena Trump's financial records for a state grand jury investigation.

"We cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate," wrote the justices.

It was left open for Trump's legal team to challenge the subpoena on other grounds, and they are doing so. Trump has referred to the inquiry into his financial history as "a pure witch hunt. 

Marc Kasowitz, part of Trump's legal team, maintains that the Supreme Court's ruling "was limited to the criminal context, and its reasoning does not extend to civil actions."

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