President Donald Trump's rape suspect E. Jean Carroll and her attorneys arrive for their federal court hearing during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in New York on October 21, 2020.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
A Manhattan federal court hearing on a case pending on allegations that President Donald Trump raped a writer more than two decades ago ended abruptly Wednesday after a government attorney moved out of the courthouse over New York coronavirus rules had been excluded.
Justice Department attorneys planned to personally argue before Judge Lewis Kaplan in support of their position that the DOJ should intervene in E. Jean Carroll's libel suit against Trump.
But one of these attorneys was denied entry to the Lower Manhattan courthouse earlier that day for traveling from his home in Virginia.
Virginia is one of a group of states whose residents must be quarantined for 14 days due to Covid-19 precautions when traveling to New York State.
DOJ attorney William Lane told Judge Lewis Kaplan over the phone that the DOJ would be relying on its current written court records on the case, rather than arguing orally over the phone or using another prosecutor in person.
The case concerns Carroll's allegation that Trump slandered her when he said she lied about being raped by him in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s.
The DOJ said last month it wanted the case to be referred from the New York state court to a federal court and wanted to replace the U.S. government as the defendant in the case, replacing Trump.
The DOJ has said it has confirmed that Trump "was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident that led to the claim."
In other words, the DOJ argues that Trump was serving as president when he adamantly denied Carroll's allegations, saying she was motivated by money.
Carroll's lawyers reject the DOJ's request to replace Trump as a defendant.
In a written filing shortly before the hearing, Lane's DOJ attorney Stephen Terrell Kaplan asked for the hearing to be postponed because one of the DOJ attorneys was blocked due to coronavirus restrictions.
E. Jean Carroll sits next to attorneys Joshua Matz and Marcella Coburn during a hearing on their defamation lawsuit against US President Donald Trump in a courthouse in New York on October 21, 2020 in this court sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
The judge denied that motion and gave the DOJ three options for the hearing: let Lane argue over the phone, let another attorney make the case in person, or skip the scheduled hearing and rest on court files already filed.
Lane told Kaplan the DOJ is taking the third option.
Carroll was in the courtroom for the brief trial. Her attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said she was disappointed with the DOJ's decision not to dispute his position as Carroll traveled several distances to attend.
Attorney General William Barr said the White House has asked the DOJ to intervene on the lawsuit.
Barr has also said that U.S. taxpayers – and not Trump – are responsible for any monetary damage awarded to Carroll if she proves her claims against the president and if a judge agrees to allow the Justice Department to handle the case.
Carroll's attorney Kaplan busted the DOJ in a statement.
"Today the court was due to argue a case against Donald Trump for defamation of E. Jean Carroll after she revealed he sexually assaulted her before he took office. The Justice Department has attempted to block this case at the taxpayer's expense by It argued that Trump was acting in the context of his tenure as President when he repeatedly defamed Carroll. "
"However, when Judge Kaplan was given the opportunity to argue orally, the DOJ refused – even after the judge told them that doing so would result in the abandonment of their new arguments (which means most of their case). This is undoubtedly a new low for the DOJ, which should at least appear in court to answer for the outrageous positions it has taken here. We remain confident that the court will reject the Justice Department's motion and look forward to it, Ms Carrolls to prosecute case in federal court. "
Carroll sued Trump for defamation in New York State Court in Manhattan last November.
"Decades ago the current President of the United States raped me. When I had the courage to speak about the attack, he defamed my character, accused me of lying on personal grounds, and even insulted my appearance. No woman should have to put that, "Carroll said at the time.
"But this lawsuit is not just about me," she said. "I'm filing this on behalf of every woman who has ever been molested, assaulted, silenced, or spoken out loud only to be embarrassed, fired, ridiculed, and belittled."