NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer for former President Donald Trump on Friday urged a U.S. appeals court to find her client immune from author E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit arising from a decades-old rape allegation, with the Biden administration siding with Trump's argument.
The lawyer, Alina Habba, told a panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that Trump was shielded from Carroll's lawsuit because he was acting as president when addressing her claims.
She said to rule otherwise could expose presidents to a raft of "frivolous" lawsuits simply for speaking on public issues.
"This is not a political matter," Habba said. "This is solely about protecting the presidency as an institution."
Democratic President Joe Biden's administration has said his Republican predecessor was acting as president when denying Carroll's claims, even though the claims concerned Trump's private life and his challenging Carroll's credibility was "crude and disrespectful."
Carroll, a longtime magazine columnist, had accused Trump in a June 2019 book excerpt of having raped her in late 1995 or early 1996 in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in midtown Manhattan.
She sued Trump for defamation in November 2019 after Trump denied knowing her, said "she's not my type," and claimed she made up the rape to sell her book.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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