A federal appeals court ruled that former President Trump cannot assert presidential immunity in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, denying Trump’s bid to avoid civil trial next month and thus setting up a Supreme Court battle.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled against Trump, finding that presidential immunity could be waived as a defense and that Trump had in fact waived it.
The panel went on to reject the former president’s various arguments for why he should be able to assert the defense now.
“[R]ecognizing presidential immunity as waivable reinforces, not undermines, the separation of powers and the President’s decision making authority by affording the President an opportunity to litigate if he so chooses. Accordingly, we hold that presidential immunity is waivable,” Judge José Cabranes wrote in the 35-page decision.
Trump attorney Alina Habba called the ruling “fundamentally flawed” in a statement and said the former president will seek the Supreme Court’s review.
Carroll, a longtime advice columnist, is set to take Trump to trial for a second time next month after coming forward during Trump’s presidency with accusations that he sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s at a New York City department store. Trump vehemently denies Carroll’s story.
After a jury earlier this year found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll — but not for rape — and ordered him to pay $5 million, Carroll is now taking Trump to trial again, this time for defamation over his initial denials.
A federal judge already ruled that Trump is liable in the case. A trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 16 — the day after the Republican Iowa caucuses — to determine how much Trump must pay in damages.
Trump’s immunity appeal was his most significant remaining effort seeking to avoid trial. The 2nd Circuit’s ruling affirms a decision issued by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who will oversee the trial.
“We are pleased that the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Kaplan’s rulings and that we can now move forward with trial next month on January 16,” Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, who is not related to the judge, said in a statement.
Source : The Hill