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DOJ seeks to defend Trump in rape accuser E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit

The Department of Justice filed a motion notifying a New York State court Tuesday that it intends to replace President Trump's private lawyers to defend him in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Why it matters: It's highly unusual for the DOJ to intervene in such cases. The department said in its notice that it intervened because Trump was "acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States" when he said last year that Carroll was "totally lying" about him of raping her in the 1990s.


What they're saying: Trump "knows that I told the truth," Carroll said in an emailed statement, noting that when she said he sexually assaulted her and he "knows that he was lying when he said that he had never met me before and that I 'wasn’t his type.'"

  • "Today's actions demonstrate that Trump will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government, to block discovery from going forward in my case before the upcoming election to try to prevent a jury from ever deciding which one of us is lying," she added. 
  • The White House said in a statement emailed to Axios that Carroll "was trying to sell a book" when she sued the president for defamation "for denying her baseless claims" and that the DOJ's action was warranted because of a law called the Federal Tort Claims Act.
"The Department's action adheres to the plain language and intent of the Statute which the courts have confirmed applies when elected officials, such as members of Congress, respond to press inquiries including with respect to personal matters."

Read the notice via DocumentCloud:

Scoop: Boston Red Sox strike out on deal to go public

The parent company of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. has ended talks to sell a minority ownership stake to RedBall Acquisition, a SPAC formed by longtime baseball executive Billy Beane and investor Gerry Cardinale, Axios has learned from multiple sources. An alternative investment, structured more like private equity, remains possible.

Why it matters: Red Sox fans won't be able to buy stock in the team any time soon.

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Donald Trump's political team disavows "Patriot Party" groups

Donald Trump's still-active presidential campaign committee officially disavowed political groups affiliated with the nascent "Patriot Party" on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump briefly floated the possibility of creating a new political party to compete with the GOP — with him at the helm. But others have formed their own "Patriot Party" entities during the past week, and Trump's team wants to make clear it has nothing to do with them.

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DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to improperly alter election results

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or formal DOJ officials "engaged in improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome," the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

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Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

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GOP Sen. Rob Portman will not run for re-election, citing "partisan gridlock"

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."

Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022.

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Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

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Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

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Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday to at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

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