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DOJ Asks to Defend Trump in Rape Accuser’s Defamation Lawsuit

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On Tuesday, the Justice Department moved to replace Trump’s private legal team with government lawyers to defend him against a defamation lawsuit brought froward by author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

What We Know:

  • In this highly unusual legal move, Justice Department lawyers said in court papers that Trump was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States when he denied ever knowing Carroll and thus, could be defended by government lawyers. The department lawyers cited a law called the Federal Tort Claims Act which gives them the right to take the case from Trump’s private lawyers and move the matter from state court to federal court. This move also allows the case to in effect be underwritten by taxpayer money while also successfully protecting Trump from any potentially embarrassing disclosures during his current re-election campaign.

“Because President Trump was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the plaintiff’s claim arose, the United States will file a motion to substitute itself for President Trump in this action for any claim for which the FTCA provides the exclusive remedy,” the department said.

  • Although the law gives federal government employees immunity from most defamation cases, legal experts said it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office. Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said “The question is, is it really within the scope of the law for government lawyers to defend someone accused of lying about a rape when he wasn’t even president yet?”
  • Last month, a state judge issued a ruling that potentially opened the door for Trump to be deposed before the November election. Additionally, Carroll’s lawyers have requested that Trump provide a DNA sample in an effort to determine whether his DNA is on a dress that Carroll said she was wearing during the time of the encounter.
  • Following the DOJ announcement, Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, issued a statement calling the Justice Department’s move to intervene a “shocking attempt to bring the resources of the United States government on a private legal matter”. Kaplan added that it is offensive for the DOJ to say that “when [Trump] lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she ‘wasn’t his type,’ he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States.”
  • Carroll herself accused the president of setting Attorney General William P. Barr against her, tweeting that in an unprecedented move, Trump sicced the DOJ on her when she requested DNA.

“Trump’s effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent,” Kaplan said, “and shows even more starkly how far he is willing to go to prevent the truth from coming out.”

  • Kaplan says the new government filing is another attempt by Trump to stall the defamation case, claiming that he has used the tactic at other points in the suit as well as other legal matters. “Trump’s strategy in this case from Day 1 has been delay, delay, and more delay,” Kaplan said, adding, “Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.” On Twitter, Carroll responded to the filing, writing that she is prepared to take on Trump and will not be silenced.

  • In June 2019, Carroll wrote a book excerpt published in New York magazine which detailed her encounter with Trump at Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale department store in Manhattan in later 1995 or early 1996. She claims that Trump raped her in a dressing room, insisting that security cameras inside the store captured both of them moving together before the alleged assault. Carroll filed a lawsuit against Trump last November, claiming that he lied by publicly denying he had ever met her.
  • In her suit, Carroll accused Trump of defaming her by publicly stating in a June 2019 interview with The Hill newspaper in the Oval Office that the assault never happened and that he could not have raped her because she was “not my type”. According to Carroll’s suit, Trump also issued an official statement the same month saying she was lying about the alleged assault and that he had never met her. However, the two were photographed together at a party in 1987 with her former husband, an image the president calls misleading.
  • Trump’s private lawyers attempted to have Carroll’s suit dismissed by arguing that “the Constitution gave a sitting president immunity against civil suits in state court”. The department’s request to represent Trump keeps with this argument. Ben Berwick, a former Justice Department lawyer who now works at Protect Democracy, a legal group that is involved in multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration, said “The president has argued in multiple cases that he is immune from civil lawsuits in state courts, and at every turn, that argument has been rejected.” A recent example would be the Supreme Court ruling that Trump could not block a subpoena for his tax returns by Manhattan prosecutors.

Carroll’s case will immediately be moved to federal court and her lawyers will have to ask a judge there to return the matter to state court. Her suit seeks damages and a retraction of Trump’s statements.

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Entertainment

Former NFL Champ Nate Burleson joins CBS Mornings

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Former NFL player Nate Burleson has officially made his hosting debut on the newly branded morning talk show, CBS Mornings.

What We Know:

  • It was announced earlier this month that Burleson would replace Anthony Mason. Previously Mason joined Gayle King and Tony Doukoupil as host of the former CBS This Morning.  The show was rebranded in tandem to the relocation of their set to Times Square and Burleson joining the cast.
  • Since 2017, former NFL player Burleson has been the host of Good Morning Football on the NFL Network and has served as an analyst on The NFL Today on CBS. Burleson will continue his role on The NFL Today.

  • Burleson is the second former NFL player to join a network morning TV show, with Michael Strahan playing a major role as a co-host on ABC‘s Good Morning America.

Burleson credits Michael Strahan as the ‘blueprint’ for his career path, explaining, “He’s one of those individuals that I took a liking to once I retired because he rewrote the blueprint. I don’t want to say that he is the blueprint, because there has been plenty of players that have transitioned out of the game into TV. There have been African American men and women before him that have done the same thing, but he is a guy that has shown me the lay of the land, especially being a transplant from the West Coast to now New York.”

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Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Headlines

Polo G Reportedly Arrested in Los Angeles on Concealed Weapon Charge

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Polo G was arrested on in Los Angeles on Monday, TMZ reports.

What We Know:

According to the outlet, Polo G was arrested after police allegedly found a concealed firearm on the Hall of Fame rapper, which TMZ points out is a felony. The supposed discovery of the firearm occurred when a vehicle Polo G was a passenger in was stopped.

It’s currently unclear why the vehicle was pulled over in the first place but it was reported that a male juvenile was also detained during the stop.

Polo was similarly arrested while he was in Miami for his Hall of Fame album release party. The arrest, which took place back in June, resulted in the rapper getting hit with charges of of battery on a police officer, resisting arrest with violence, and criminal mischief. The rapper was also a passenger in a vehicle at the time of that arrest.

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