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N.Y. judge rejects Trump’s attempt to countersue E. Jean Carroll

E. Jean Carroll claimed that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in a dressing room at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. (Eva Deitch for The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — A New York judge has rejected a bid by Donald Trump to sue author and columnist E. Jean Carroll on the grounds that her defamation case against him in 2019 was baseless — a ruling that accused the former president of causing repeated delays to keep a sensitive matter from moving closer to trial.

Carroll’s lawsuit has also been held up by the Justice Department’s bid to intervene as counsel on Trump’s behalf, an effort based on the argument that he was acting in his official capacity as a federal employee when he made comments disparaging Carroll. Trump’s remarks were in response to Carroll’s allegation that he had raped her in Manhattan decades prior — an accusation Trump denies.

Allowing Trump’s counterclaim against Carroll to proceed “would make a regrettable situation worse by opening new avenues for significant further delay,” U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote in a ruling that was docketed Friday.

Carroll’s sole claim of defamation “could have been tried and decided — one way or the other — long ago,” the ruling said.

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Trump’s obstructive actions in the Carroll proceeding, which began in a New York state court three years ago, “have had a dilatory effect and, indeed, strongly suggest that he is acting out of a strong desire to delay any opportunity [Carroll] may have to present her case against him,” Kaplan added.

Trump’s allegedly damaging comments — calling Carroll a liar and insisting that he had never even met her — were made in response to allegations in her 2018 memoir “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal.”

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Carroll wrote that Trump, then a well-known real estate tycoon, raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in the 1990s after a chance encounter.

Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said in a statement that his legal team will prove at trial that “the plaintiff’s claims have absolutely no basis in law or in fact.”

In a previous decision, Kaplan denied the Justice Department’s request to take the case over from Trump’s personal lawyers — which would have the procedural effect of ending the lawsuit, because the “sovereign immunity” doctrine generally protects a government employee from liability over actions taken in their official capacity. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has heard arguments on that issue but has not yet ruled.

Carroll is not seeking Trump’s deposition before trial, but she has asked for his DNA sample for comparison to biological matter found on a dress she said she wore on the day of the alleged assault.