The Oval Office can’t protect President Trump from a defamation lawsuit brought by a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” a Manhattan judge ruled Tuesday.
Trump had argued that he was entitled to presidential immunity while serving as commander-in-chief and did not have to respond to the suit filed by Summer Zervos.
She sued Trump in January 2017, three days before he was sworn in as President, alleging he smeared her as a liar on the campaign trail after she went public with allegations he “kissed her on the mouth repeatedly” without consent and groped her during meetings in Beverly Hills in 2007.
But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter disagreed, citing precedent set by a Supreme Court ruling regarding the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal.
“No one is above the law. It is settled that the President of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts,” Schecter wrote.
Trump’s longtime attorney Marc Kasowitz had argued that it was unclear if the President had to respond to a suit filed in state court. But Schecter said rulings that a president must respond to a federal suit also applied to state ones.
“Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility,” she wrote.
Schecter also dismissed Kasowitz’s argument that Trump’s denunciations of Zervos were protected speech because they were part of the presidential campaign.
“A reader or listener, cognizant that (Trump) knows exactly what transpired, could reasonably believe what defendant’s statements convey: that (Zervos) is contemptible because she ‘fabricated’ events for personal gain,” Schecter wrote.
“That defendant’s statements about plaintiff’s veracity were made while he was campaigning to become President of the United States, does not make them any less actionable.”
“The rule of law and sound reason have prevailed today. We are grateful for the opportunity to prove that that defendant falsely branded Ms. Zervos a phony for telling the truth about his unwanted sexual groping,” said Zervos’s lawyer, Mariann Wang.
(c)2018 New York Daily News
Visit New York Daily News at www.nydailynews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.