Trump Can't Countersue E. Jean Carroll, Judge Calls It 'Delay Tactic'

A federal judge Friday has denied the attempts of former President Donald Trump to countersue E. Jean Carroll, a writer who is suing him for defamation over his denial of an accusation that he raped her in the 1990s as well as subsequent comments about her appearance and his belief that she only made the accusation in 2019 to increase sales of her new book.

In a 23-page ruling, Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said that the former president's countersuit claims were "futile" and only a tactic to delay Carroll's suit against him further.

Trump's legal team had attempted to use New York's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law, which allows people being sued to see the lawsuit dismissed and potentially have things like legal fees paid to them if they can prove the original lawsuit was harmful to their freedom of speech, or "public participation."

SLAPP lawsuits are often brought or threatened to be brought against activists, whistleblowers or journalists by companies or governments over information that could harm the reputation or image of the claimant, according to the International Forum for Responsible Media blog.

"As the Court said in its opinion today: a 'characterization of [Donald Trump's] previous and threatened future actions as dilatory, in bad faith or unduly prejudicial would be a bootless exercise," Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said in a statement to Newsweek. "They are, in varying degrees, all three. Judge Kaplan further noted that this case 'could have been tried and decided—one way or the other—long ago.' My client E. Jean Carroll and I could not agree more."

In a book that was released in 2019 and excerpts of which were published prior to its release, Carroll, now 78, accused Trump, 75, of raping her in a department store dressing room in the mid-90s. Trump, subsequently questioned about the accusation by reporters covering the White House during his presidency, denied the accusation, said he didn't know who Carroll was before the accusation and said she was "not his type," in addition to accusing her of fabricating the accusation to increase book sales.

"HALLELUJAH!!!!" Carroll tweeted in reaction to Friday's ruling, who also thanked her attorneys. "The women of America just won a major decision in Federal Court! In a SCORCHING DENIAL, the Court explains all the reasons why Trump my (sic) NOT sue me for speaking up!"

Trump's legal team argued that her lawsuit was harassing him for his free speech, and therefore violated New York's anti-SLAPP law. The former president's team had previously argued that since the allegedly defamatory comments were made to reporters while he was performing his duties as president, the federal government, represented by the Justice Department, should replace him as the defendant.

That potential change to the lawsuit would effectively end the suit, as several experts have said that suing government officials for conduct that takes place while they are performing their official duties is a tougher legal standard.

Update 3/11/22, 5:02 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and context.

E Jean Carroll Donald Trump
A federal judge ruled Friday that former President Donald Trump can't countersue E. Jean Carroll. Above, Carroll speaks onstage during the How to Write Your Own Life panel at the 2019 Glamour Women Of The Year Summit at Alice Tully Hall on November 10, 2019 in New York City. Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Glamour