Donald Trump Pushes for ‘Presidential Immunity’ Defense in E. Jean Carroll’s Defamation Suit – In a bid to narrow the scope of the defamation lawsuit brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll, former President Donald Trump has called on a federal appeals court to allow him to assert “presidential immunity.” The lawsuit, set for trial in January, centers around comments Trump made about Carroll in 2019 while he was in office.
Trump is employing a defense strategy similar to the one he is using in his federal criminal case, which stems from his efforts to subvert the 2020 election. In the criminal case, Trump’s lawyers have argued that he is “absolutely immune from prosecution.” This approach has drawn criticism from special counsel Jack Smith, who contends it is in sharp contrast with American history and the Constitution.
During the proceedings in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Madaio, emphasized that presidential immunity is “an absolute and non-waivable protection.” He warned the court that if it doesn’t overturn the lower court’s decision, it would set a historic precedent where a sitting president could be held civilly liable for official acts.
Trump’s assertion is based on the idea that he cannot be sued over remarks he made about Carroll while he was president. In 2019, Trump accused Carroll of making false rape allegations against him, suggesting that her motives were financial. This immunity argument was initially rejected by a district judge, leading Trump to appeal to the 2nd Circuit. The three-judge panel, all Democratic appointees, did not reveal their inclinations during the 45-minute argument on Monday.
Carroll previously won a civil trial against Trump in a separate lawsuit. Following a trial earlier this year, a jury determined that Trump had sexually abused Carroll and defamed her in 2022 when he dismissed her account as a “hoax.” Trump was ordered to pay Carroll $5 million, a verdict he has appealed.
The upcoming trial, set for January, relates to another lawsuit from Carroll over Trump’s statements in 2019, while he was still president.
In September, a judge ruled that the jury for the January trial would only need to determine the amount of money Trump must pay Carroll, as the judge found Trump’s statements to be defamatory. However, if an appeals court endorses Trump’s immunity argument, Trump’s liability for the 2019 statements may become irrelevant.
Carroll’s lawyer, Joshua Matz, has urged judges to reject Trump’s claim of presidential immunity, citing events related to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot as an example of when a president should be held legally responsible for public statements. Matz argued that there are circumstances where a president’s public speech could cause significant harm to private citizens, making complete immunity inconsistent with a presidential system.
As the legal battle continues, the outcome of the appeals court’s ruling will have significant implications for Trump’s defense strategy and the scope of the defamation lawsuit.
Adam Bruton, a Senior Researcher at the London-based intelligence firm Winter Circle Ltd told 19FortyFive that: “If the judge has any sense, this appeal will be thrown out. The idea that being president means you are immune from prosecution is preposterous.
“We have the Nixon pardon as precedent – if Watergate and everything else Nixon did was legal because he was the president, Ford wouldn’t have had to pardon him. The presidency doesn’t make you immune from prosecution for life, or even immune from prosecution for crimes while in office.
“At most, it makes you immune from prosecution while still President, but even then, Ulysses Grant was fined for speeding while in office. Sure, not a felony afaik, but the precedent still stands
“It is my opinion that Mr Trump’s lawyers are robbing him blind!”
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.
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