NEW YORK (AP) – Former President Donald Trump cracked down on the U.S. Department of Justice on social media on Wednesday stopped supporting his claim that the Presidency exempts him from liability for a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s.
Trump said in a post on his social media platform that the department’s about-face in advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit a day earlier was part of the “political witch hunt” he was facing while campaigning as a Republican for the run for presidency.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Carroll, 79, sued Trump, 77, for defamation months after he vehemently denied her claims, first made public in her 2019 memoir, that a chance encounter between the two at a Bergdorf Goodman store started flirting, but ended in a violent encounter in a dressing room in an abandoned part of the store.
Progress on the lawsuit, filed in 2020, was delayed by three years as an appeals court examined claims by Trump and the Justice Department that he was protected from liability for statements he made as president. When Joe Biden became president, the Justice Department did not change its position.
However, in a letter to a federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday, the department said that circumstances had changed since the original recommendation and that Trump could no longer assume that his comments about Carroll were made in the course of his official duties as president.
It noted that a Washington, DC court recently defined when a president is immune from civil action, citing a $5 Million Federal Jury Award to Carroll in May after finding out that Trump had sexually abused and defamed her even though he had not raped her. The lawsuit was also understood to have been updated with remarks Trump made about Carroll’s claims after he left the presidency.
In three posts Wednesday on Truth Social, Trump again backed his claims about Carroll that led the jury to conclude he had defamed her.
“The statements I have made about Carroll are all true. I didn’t rape her (I won the case) and other than this case I have no idea who she is, what she looks like or anything about her…” he wrote.
The trial emerged from a lawsuit Carroll filed in November after New York state temporarily allowed adult victims of sexual assault to sue their abusers for damages, even if the abuse happened decades earlier. Her defamation lawsuit at trial stemmed from statements Trump made last October.
For some days, Carroll testified that Trump’s attack prompted her to abandon her romantic life thereafter, and that his comments after the publication of her memoir tarnished her reputation and prompted a “harrowing” onslaught of hateful and occasionally threatening messages directed at her.
Trump did not appear at the two-week trial, although the jury was shown key portions of a videotaped testimony in October.
In Wednesday’s social media posts, Trump called the trial “very unfair,” criticized the judge for being hostile and biased, and said his attorneys “didn’t want it because they respect the office of President and the case is incredulous.” testify or even take part in the process …”
He added: “We are fiercely appealing this travesty of justice!!!”
A day after the ruling, Trump repeated many of his previous claims about Carroll during a CNN town hall event, prompting Carroll to add those remarks to her original defamation lawsuit. She is now seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and substantially more punitive damages in a trial scheduled for January that may only consist of a damages phase.
Trump then countersued, saying Carroll defamed him with comments she made a day after the verdict.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll did.