The White House said in a statement late Monday that it was “not consulted” on the Justice Department continuing to defend
former President Donald Trump in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him, the third time the Biden Administration has distanced itself from the DOJ in recent days as President Joe Biden contrasts himself with Trump by emphasizing the department’s independence.
The Trump-era Justice Department tried to intervene in a defamation lawsuit that Carroll brought against Trump for comments he made after she accused him of sexual assault, asking to represent Trump in the case because his denial of Carroll’s allegations was allegedly part of his presidential duties.
After a judge denied the Trump DOJ’s attempt to join the case and the Justice Department appealed the ruling, the Biden DOJ said in a court filing that while it didn’t support Trump’s “crude and disrespectful comments,” it still believed Trump’s response to Carroll’s allegations were answers to questions “posed to him in his capacity as President.”
The White House “was not consulted by DOJ on the decision to file this brief or its contents,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in response to the filing, noting that Biden and his team “have utterly different standards from their predecessors for what qualify as acceptable statements.”
Biden also disputed the DOJ defending a Trump-era Social Security Act provision for Puerto Rico residents in a U.S. Supreme Court filing Monday, saying the provision the Justice Department was backing—part of their “longstanding practice” to defend federal statutes—“is inconsistent with my Administration’s policies and values.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also distanced the administration from the DOJ’s practice of using gag orders when seizing records from journalists, saying in a statement they were unaware of it before a New York Times report Friday.
The Justice Department will no longer subpoena reporters’ records because doing so is “not consistent with the president’s policy direction to the department,” Psaki said.
Biden also attacked Trump having the Justice Department defend him in Carroll’s lawsuit ahead of the presidential election, saying during a town hall the case was an instance of Trump using the DOJ as his “own law firm.”
Chief Critics Carroll and attorney Roberta Kaplan have heavily criticized the Biden DOJ’s decision to wade into her case against Trump, which Kaplan said Monday was “truly shocking” and “legally” and “morally wrong.” “As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault — the DOJ is trying to stop me from having that same right,” Carroll said in a statement.
After Trump faced criticism throughout his presidency that he was using his Justice Department and U.S. Attorney General William Barr to do his bidding, Biden has repeatedly emphasized his intention to keep his administration’s judiciary arm as independent as possible. “The Justice Department in my administration will be totally independent of me,” Biden said on the campaign trail in September, calling the DOJ’s “politicization” under Trump “the most dangerous thing that’s happened so far” during Trump’s presidency. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed to be impartial in his work at the department, saying after being confirmed that the “essence of the rule of law” is that there should not be “one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, another for foes.”
In addition to the Carroll lawsuit, the Biden Administration has also pointed to the DOJ’s independence to justify not getting involved in questions of whether Trump should face prosecution for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, with Psaki saying in February that the issue will be “up to the Department of Justice to determine.” “We’re doing something new here, and there’s going to be an independent Justice Department,” Psaki said.