On Monday, the Justice Department stated that President Donald Trump could not be sued personally, but only as the president of the United States, for denying a rape allegation from 20 years ago, because he denied the accusation while acting as president.

The DOJ made this statement after Attorney General William Barr’s decision to intervene in a lawsuit against the president filed in New York by E. Jean Carroll, a former writer for Elle magazine. Barr had sought to transfer the suit from state court to Federal District Court in Manhattan, making the federal government the defendant rather than Trump. Barr intervened due to a law designed to protect federal government employees when handed with defamation suits while serving in office.

Carroll stated in her defamation suit that in the mid 1990s, Trump stopped her in the luxury Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman’s dressing rooms, saying, “Hey, you’re that advice lady!” She claims he then held her against a wall of the fitting rooms and raped her. She also published this information in a book last year, as well as in excerpts in New York magazine.

Earlier this month, Carroll’s lawyers submitted court papers requesting federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan to reject the DOJ’s intervention. Carroll’s lawyers are concerned that if this move is approved by a judge, it would force the dismissal her lawsuit completely.

“There is not a single person in the United States – not the president and not anyone else – whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted,” wrote Carroll’s lawyers.

Carroll’s accusations “sought to call into question the President’s fitness for office and a response was necessary for the president to effectively govern,” said the DOJ on Monday in response to the statements made by Carroll’s lawyers. “The president’s challenged statements were directly relevant to his role as president and leader of the executive branch.”

The DOJ’s involvement was brought up by Democratic nominee Joe Biden in his solo town hall last week.

“‘I’m being sued because a woman’s accusing me of rape. Represent me. Represent me,'” Biden said, mocking Trump’s voice. He then accused Trump of using the DOJ like “it’s his own law firm,” and asked, “What’s that all about?”

Barr defended his decision a day after the requested transfer of the case to reporters in Chicago.

“The law is clear. It is done frequently,” Barr said. “The little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live.”