The Justice Department said Tuesday it will no longer argue that President Donald J. Trump’s derogatory statements about E. Jean Carroll in 2019 were made as part of his official duties as president — a reversal that gives new momentum to her case.
Ms. Carroll, 79, who already won a lawsuit accusing Mr. Trump of sexual abuse years ago and defamation after he left the White House, is now trying to push forward a separate lawsuit that has been mired in appeals. If a judge ultimately finds that Mr. Trump’s comments were part of his official duties, that case could be dismissed because a president cannot be sued for defamation.
The Justice Department has taken the position, first during the Trump administration and then under President Biden, that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity when he called Ms. Carroll a liar and denied her allegation that he raped her nearly 30 years ago. in a Manhattan department store dressing room.
But the department said in a court filing on Tuesday that new evidence has emerged since Mr. Trump, 77, left office in January 2021 — including in the recent civil trial in which a Manhattan jury found Mr. Trump liable for sexually assaulting him. by Mrs. Carroll.
The fresh set of facts “supports a conclusion that Mr. Trump was motivated by a ‘personal grievance’ stemming from events that occurred many years before Mr. Trump’s presidency,” department lawyers wrote in the filing.
The department noted that Mr. Trump’s 2019 statements about Ms. Carroll were made through official channels that presidents often use to communicate with the news media. But, the department said, “Although the statements themselves were made in a work context, the allegations that prompted the statements related to a purely personal incident: an alleged sexual assault that occurred decades before Mr. Trump’s presidency.”
A lawyer for Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Carroll’s attorney, Roberta A. Kaplan, said in a statement: “We are grateful that the Justice Department has reconsidered its position. We have always believed that Donald Trump made his defamatory statements about our client in June 2019 out of personal malice, ill will and malice, and not as president of the United States.”
This is a new story and will be updated.