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Former U.S. President Donald Trump rallies with his supporters at Wilmington International Airport in Wilmington, North Carolina on Sept. 23.JONATHAN ERNST/Reuters

A federal appeals court set aside a judge’s ruling that Donald Trump could be sued for defamation by E. Jean Carroll after denying he raped her, though it stopped short of declaring the former U.S. president immune from the author’s lawsuit.

In a 2-1 decision on Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan asked an appeals court in Washington to weigh in on whether the laws of that district shielded Mr. Trump from liability.

But the Manhattan court also accepted Mr. Trump’s argument that he qualified as a U.S. government “employee” when he allegedly defamed Ms. Carroll, a condition underlying his immunity claim.

A dissenting judge, Denny Chin, would have let Ms. Carroll pursue “at least some” claims, saying “Carroll’s allegations plausibly paint a picture of a man pursuing a personal vendetta against an accuser.”

Ms. Carroll sued Mr. Trump in November, 2019, and had been hoping to go to trial as soon as next February.

She had accused Mr. Trump in a June, 2019, book excerpt of having raped her in late 1995 or early 1996 in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in midtown Manhattan.

Mr. Trump, then in his third year in the White House, responded to her accusations by telling a reporter he did not know Ms. Carroll, that “she’s not my type,” and that she concocted the rape claim to sell her book.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said in a statement she was “extremely pleased” with Tuesday’s decision, saying it would “protect the ability of all future presidents to effectively govern without hindrance.”

Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Ms. Carroll, said in a statement she was “confident” the District of Columbia court would let the case proceed.

On Sept. 20, Ms. Kaplan said Ms. Carroll planned to sue Mr. Trump for battery and inflicting emotional distress even if the defamation claims were thrown out.

She cited a new state law, the Adult Survivors Act, which gives adult accusers a one-year window starting on Nov. 24 to bring civil claims over alleged sexual misconduct occurring long ago.

Mr. Trump claimed he was shielded from Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit by a federal law immunizing government employees from defamation claims.

He also said letting the case proceed could unleash a flood of frivolous lawsuits whenever presidents spoke.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan had found that Mr. Trump was not a government employee, and that even if he were, he exceeded the scope of his employment when talking about Ms. Carroll.

Asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to address the second issue, Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi said the district’s law was “genuinely uncertain” and the matter was “of extreme public importance.”

“We do not pass judgment or express any view as to whether Trump’s public statements were indeed defamatory or whether the sexual assault allegations had, in fact, occurred,” he wrote.

Justice Chin, in his dissent, said Mr. Trump was not serving “any purpose of the federal government” when he discussed Ms. Carroll.

“In the context of an accusation of rape, the comment ‘she’s not my type’ surely is not something one would expect the President of the United States to say in the course of his duties,” Justice Chin wrote.

The case became more complex in 2020 when the Department of Justice, acting at the behest of then-attorney-general William Barr, sought to substitute the government as the sole defendant.

That would have ended Ms. Carroll’s case, because the United States had not waived its immunity from defamation claims.

In a somewhat surprising move, the Biden administration essentially adopted its predecessor’s argument, while criticizing Mr. Trump for making “crude and offensive comments” in response to Ms. Carroll’s “very serious” accusations.

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.