Judge rules defamation case against Trump related to sexual harassment allegations may proceed
A New York judge said Tuesday that a defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump related to an allegation that he sexually harassed a former "Apprentice" contestant may go forward.
Summer Zervos filed the suit last year after Trump said publicly that she and other women making similar claims made them up. Trump sought to block the legal action, but New York Supreme Court Judge Jennifer G. Schecter, citing court precedent that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998, said that "a sitting president is not immune from being sued in federal court for unofficial acts."
Trump has repeatedly said that all of the women who accused him of touching them inappropriately were lying - a sentiment his White House reiterated as questions resurfaced about the allegations.
Trump's attorneys argued that the president cannot be sued in state court and also argued that the comments he made were political opinion and, as a result, "squarely protected by the First Amendment."
Schechter's decision comes as lawyers representing Trump face another suit - this one filed in early March in Los Angeles Superior Court by porn star Stormy Daniels, who said Trump sought to silence her shortly before the 2016 election. The $130,000 hush agreement was intended to prevent her from speaking out about an alleged affair that began, Daniels said, at a celebrity golf tournament in 2006.
Zervos first made public her claims against Trump at an October 2016 news conference, as one of a parade of women who accused him of misconduct after the release of an "Access Hollywood" recording capturing the future president boasting in graphic language about groping women. At a presidential debate, Trump denied ever doing the things he described in the recording, which some of his accusers said prompted them to come forward.
Zervos has accused Trump of aggressively kissing her and groping her breasts while she was pursuing a job at his company, charges he said were untrue.
In January 2017, Zervos filed a suit in New York State Supreme Court against Trump, arguing that Trump defamed her by denying her account and calling his accusers "liars." Attorneys for Trump pushed back on multiple fronts, arguing that the suit was "politically motivated" and was built around "allegations of events that never occurred."
A former Playboy model who says she was paid $150,000 to keep quiet about her affair with Trump also filed a lawsuit Tuesday to invalidate the deal so she can speak freely.
The model, Karen McDougal, is suing American Media, the owner of the National Enquirer, which paid her the money in exchange for her silence.
Authors Information: Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post. Frances Stead Sellers is a senior writer at The Washington Post.