Note: this piece was originally published in the Associated Press, and features a quote from Checks & Balances member Stuart Gerson.
But experts said it’s far from clear that the conduct at issue — whether Trump defamed E. Jean Carroll, a writer who accused him of raping her at a New York luxury department store in the 1990s — has anything to do with the scope of his White House duties. The department’s move is likely to have an ancillary benefit for Trump in delaying the case, but administration lawyers have a tough task at hand trying to argue that the president was acting in his official capacity when he denied Carroll’s allegations last year, experts say.
“I wouldn’t make such an argument, and if a president approached me to do it, I would say, ‘Don’t,’” said Stuart Gerson, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Division in President George H.W. Bush’s administration when Barr was attorney general for the first time.
“The president gets sued all the time and is defended by the government,” Gerson added, “but those are for lawsuits that have to do with actions in his official capacity as the president. This isn’t anything like that.”
The Justice Department’s action is consistent with the expansive view of executive authority it has taken under Barr and with its practice of taking legal positions benefiting the president’s personal interests, including asking the Supreme Court just last month to allow him to block critics from his Twitter account. It is likely to deepen concerns from critics that the department is functioning as a private law firm for the president, with the attorney general as his personal lawyer, which Barr has adamantly denied.
Read the full piece at AP.