During the campaign we had numerous women alleging that Donald Trump assaulted them in many ways, charges that the Trump campaign furiously denied and for which many of the accusers were harassed by Trump supporters. But now one woman Summer Zeervos has said through her attorney Gloria Allred that she has filed a lawsuit against Trump for defamation because of the charges he made against her while denying her accusations.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on season five of The Apprentice, first came forward in October to accuse the GOP nominee of sexual assault. Following her short stint on the reality show, Zervos said she approached Mr. Trump about job opportunities in 2007, but instead of being offered employment, Zervos claimed, Trump groped her.
“Ms. Zervos was ambushed by Mr. Trump on more than one occasion,” the complaint states. “Mr. Trump suddenly, and without her consent, kissed her on her mouth repeatedly; he touched her breast; and he pressed his genitals up against her. Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching.”
In response to Zervos’ original claims, Trump released a statement to People saying that he “vaguely remembered” her and denied ever meeting her at a hotel or groping her. “That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I’ve conducted my life,” the statement said.
Further, Trump insisted, Zervos had contacted him recently for help and a request to visit her restaurant. The presidential candidate then released a statement from a cousin of Zervos expressing shock at the allegations.
Zervos’s defamation suit rests on the claim that Trump’s denial was not only knowingly untrue, but was made with the knowledge that it would be heard by millions, and would do irreparable harm, subjecting Zervos and the other women to “threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage,” the lawsuit claims. Her claim, for emotional harm and economic damage, seeks an undisclosed sum in compensatory and punitive damages.
But Zervos, whom Allred said had volunteered and passed a lie detector test, said she’d settle for a retraction. If Trump would “simply retract his false and defamatory statements about me and acknowledge I told the truth about him,” Zervos said, she would drop her lawsuit.
There seems little chance that Trump will agree to those conditions. Although after the election Trump abruptly settled for $25 million the lawsuit against his Trump university, presumably to avoid a court fight while he is president, this is different. I would expect him to fight it even though having the suit go forward could open him up to questions under oath and result in the release of tapes of the show The Apprentice that are supposed to contain some explosive material. Zervos is likely going to be at the receiving end of a massive public attack by the Trump hordes and private attempts by some to bribe her in order to get her to drop the lawsuit.
As I understand it the president is only immune from being personally sued for actions that are done in an official capacity while in office. So this case clearly can go forward though I am not clear how strong it is on the merits because the outcome of defamation cases are hard to predict.