The department’s move to step into the Carroll case had come at the direct request of the White House, according to Attorney General William P. Barr. Mr. Barr’s department has also intervened in other matters involving Mr. Trump, including the criminal case of his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn. In the Flynn case, Mr. Barr’s department sought to drop the prosecution — a move that a federal judge has held up while he is scrutinizing it.
The lawsuit Ms. Carroll initially filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan accused Mr. Trump of lying in several public statements last year when he firmly denied he had attacked her in a dressing room in Bergdorf Goodman, the high-end Manhattan store, in the mid-1990s.
According to Ms. Carroll’s account in a book and magazine article, Mr. Trump stopped her in the store and said, “Hey, you’re that advice lady!”
She claimed that Mr. Trump then accompanied her into the dressing room, threw her against a wall, pulled down her tights and raped her.
Shortly after the account came out, Mr. Trump denied that he had ever met Ms. Carroll and accused her of lying, adding, “She’s not my type.” In a written statement, Mr. Trump also said Ms. Carroll was “trying to sell a new book.” He added, “It should be sold in the fiction section.”
In her lawsuit, Ms. Carroll said that Mr. Trump’s denials had harmed her reputation, causing her to lose the good will and support of her readers. Mr. Trump, initially represented by private lawyers, sought to delay the case on the grounds that as a sitting president he was completely immune to civil lawsuits in state court.
But in August, a New York State judge, Verna L. Saunders, denied his request. She cited a ruling by the United States Supreme Court this summer, which rejected a claim by Mr. Trump that, as president, he was immune from a state criminal investigation. That dispute arose after the Manhattan district attorney’s office subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s accountants for his tax returns.