While the rest of the USA. UU Fight against the celebration of sexual harassers, the president Donald Trump tries to silence one of his most vocal critics: a former contestant on his reality TV show who accused him of fondling her and sued him for calling her a liar.
In a crowded Manhattan court on Tuesday, his lawyer asked a New York state judge to dismiss a defamation case by Summer Zervos, a contender on "The Apprentice" in 2005 who claims he was "ambushed" she without her consent on more than one occasion as of 2007, kissing her in the mouth, touching her breast and pressing her genitals against her.
The lawyer Marc Kasowitz said that his objection to letting the case proceed is to follow the Constitution of the United States. UU Do not put anyone above the law.
"A state court can not exercise jurisdiction over the president of the United States while he is in office," Kasowitz said.
Regardless of what the judge decides, the case is likely to be appealed to the highest court in the state. That almost certainly guarantees that if the president is forced to testify, it will not happen in the short term.
The lawsuit may take years to resolve, due to "a lot of obstruction by Trump, refusal to schedule depositions, long delays." in response to discovery requests and the defendants always stall, "said Debra S. Katz, a lawyer who is not involved in the case.
Zervos claims that Trump slandered her by denying that he had groped and marked her. to women who accused him of similar behavior as liars.The claim derives from the statements that the candidate made after the release of the infamous recording of "Access Hollywood" that presented him making crude comments about women.
The former contestant & # 39; trainee & # 39; requires proof in Trump Lawsuit
Trump's lawyers argue that if the case is allowed to move forward, the collection of evidence should be delayed until he leaves office
Trump called the demand for political motivation, saying that Zervos can not hold him accountable for that, participating in a political speech that is protected by the First Amendment. He continued to try to contact him and seek employment even after he made the statements that she says are defamatory, and only turned against him after he did not accept an invitation to his restaurant.
Both parties have the right to automatically appeal any decision made by Supreme Court Justice Jennifer G. Schecter to a panel of judges in Manhattan, a process that will probably take months to complete. And the parties can then ask the state's highest court in Albany to review the case, a challenge that could take up to a year to complete.
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Trump's argument that he is immune from claims in a state court is based in part on the Supremacy clause of the United States Constitution. He has quoted U.S. The Supreme Court ruling in Paula Jones's assault lawsuit against former President Bill Clinton, where the judges ruled that his federal case could continue. But the nation's highest court stated explicitly that it was not deciding whether the lawsuits in the state court could proceed against a president.
Kasowitz said that the Supremacy Clause protects the president and his ability to do his job. The president is a "sole official" in the executive branch, his work is "24-7" and only the affirmation of jurisdiction by a state court would interfere with his abilities to carry out his duties, argued the lawyer.
"The president is being hailed in court," Kasowitz said. "And once the president is acclaimed before the court there are innumerable obligations that derive from that."
Katz, partner at Katz, Marshall & Banks in Washington, said the argument did not help Clinton and that Trump is not likely to help.
"That was a tactic that Clinton pursued and lost in that and, of course, we know what happened with the Paula Jones suit and the effect it ultimately had on his presidency," Katz said. "We've got him showing off openly in the 'Access Hollywood' film that this is exactly how he treats women, and he thinks he can sexually attack women because he can get away with it, these are very strong accusations. "
If the case does move forward, Trump could open up to extremely broad questions about his treatment of women and would be forced to sit in depositions and provide documents, Katz said. Zervos has already requested documents from the Trump campaign for documents on "any woman who alleges that Donald J. Trump improperly touched her."
"Zervos' lawyers will seek all documents on anyone who has accused Trump of improperly touching them," Katz said. . "If that is successful, as it should be in a case like this, the president would have a significant legal risk." The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in 1997 that federal courts have jurisdiction to handle cases like this. of their claims. "
The case is Zervos v. Trump, 150522/2017, New York Supreme Court, New York County (New York).