A federal appeals court in New York on December 13 unanimously ruled against Donald Trump’s attempt to invoke presidential immunity in the upcoming defamation trial brought by accuser E. Jean Carroll, finding that he waited too long to raise the defense, NBC News reported.
Trump’s attorneys had argued that the former president could not be sued for his 2019 comments about Carroll because he was in office at the time and the comments related to his duties as president since he needed to assure the public that Carroll’s allegations were untrue.
However, in a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said Trump waited too long to raise that defense, therefore the former president waived presidential immunity.
The court noted that Carroll filed her defamation suit in November 2019 and when Donald Trump filed his response two months later, he did not raise a presidential immunity defense. Instead, Trump waited until January 2023 to raise the defense.
The judges wrote that allowing Trump to use the defense now would cause “undue prejudice” to Carroll.
Roberta Kaplan, who is representing Carroll in the civil case, said she was pleased with the appellate court’s decision, noting that the trial could now move forward on January 16.
Trump’s legal spokeswoman Alina Habba described the appellate court’s ruling as “fundamentally flawed.” Habba vowed that Trump’s legal team would “continue to pursue justice and appropriate resolution.”
The January trial will be the second time Carroll has sued Trump for defamation. In the previous trial, a jury determined in May that Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed Carroll and awarded her damages of $5 million.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the trial, in June denied the presidential immunity defense, saying in his ruling that it could not be used as a “get out of damages liability-free” card.
Trump’s attorneys have also invoked the presidential immunity defense in the federal election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith. In early December, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected the argument, similarly saying that presidential immunity did not amount to a “lifelong get-out-of-jail-free pass.”
Trump’s lawyers have appealed Judge Chutkan’s ruling.