US justice department seeks to defend Trump in defamation lawsuit tied to rape allegation
The filing complicates, at least for the moment, Ms Carroll’s efforts to get a DNA sample from the president as potential evidence and to have him answer questions under oath.
Justice Department lawyers argue that Mr Trump was „acting within the scope of his office” when he denied Ms Carroll’s allegations, made last year, that he raped her in a New York luxury department store in the mid-1990s. She says his comments – including that she was „totally lying” to sell a memoir – besmirched her character and harmed her career.
„Numerous courts have recognised that elected officials act within the scope of their office or employment when speaking with the press, including with respect to personal matters,” the Justice attorneys wrote.
It will be up to a federal judge to decide whether to move the case to federal court from state court and to allow the US to become the defendant.
Ms Carroll is trying to get a DNA sample from Mr Trump to see whether it matches as-yet-unidentified male genetic material found on a dress that she says she was wearing during the alleged attack and didn’t don again until a photo shoot last year.
Her suit seeks damages and a retraction of Mr Trump’s statements.
US-China rivalry is set to dominate discussions as the foreign ministers of 10 Southeast Asian countries begin an online summit Wednesday, with Washington’s top diplomat ready to take aim at Beijing’s „bullying” in the South China Sea.
The summit comes just days after China launched ballistic missiles in the flashpoint waters as part of live-fire exercises and as Washington and Beijing clash over a range of issues from trade to the coronavirus.
Ministers will be joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for their first summit since the US announced sanctions on Chinese companies over Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters.
The resource-rich South China Sea is claimed in its entirety by Beijing but is also contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
A fresh spat between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal — one of the region’s richest fishing grounds — also hangs over the talks.
„The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbours,” Pompeo said ahead of the summit.
Tensions over the Korean Peninsula will also be high on the agenda. Talks between Pyongyang and Washington on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal have been stalled since the collapse of a Hanoi summit between leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump last year.
The coronavirus pandemic is set to feature heavily in discussions, after Vietnam, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, warned at a meeting in June that the fallout from the virus had swept away years of economic gains in the region.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in opening remarks that „people and enterprises are suffering from huge losses” and „the geopolitical environment, regional economy, including that of the East Sea (South China Sea), are experiencing several upheavals, influencing peace and stability”.
The „power rivalry” between the US and China will likely steal the limelight, a senior Southeast Asian diplomat told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
„The United States and China will likely use the meetings as a platform to throw everything at each other,” he said.
Smaller countries will „say their usual lines” and then take cover as Washington and Beijing fight, he added.
Friction between the two powers is already high over trade, blame for the coronavirus pandemic and China’s policies in Hong Kong, where Beijing has imposed a draconian national security law.
There is also angst that the virus may have provided cover for China to make new plays in the South China Sea.
Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian politics at the National War College in Washington, said there was unlikely to be much progress in talks over the disputed waters.
„China has effectively used Covid-19 assistance and promises of vaccines — and trials in the Philippines and Indonesia — to really try to quash any diplomatic momentum towards a discussion of the South China Sea,” he told AFP.