MANHATTAN (CN) – Rejecting President Donald Trump’s bid for immunity, a New York judge invoked a fundamental precept of a free society Tuesday to set the stage for a former “Apprentice” contestant’s defamation suit.
“No one is above the law,” Justice Jennifer Schechter wrote.
Summer Zervos brought the suit against Trump last year, claiming that the real estate mogul defamed her on the presidential-campaign trail in 2016 after she accused Trump in a press conference with celebrity attorney Gloria Allred of making multiple unwanted advances at her.
Zervos said the first encounter, two unwanted kisses, occurred at Trump’s New York office. Then at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2007, Zervos said, Trump kissed her “aggressively,” fondled one of her breasts and thrust his genitals at her.
Trump took to Twitter after the October 2016 press conference to deny the allegations, calling them “made up events THAT NEVER HAPPENED,” “100% fabricated and made-up charges,” and “made up stories and lies.”
Though the president sought to have the defamation case either dismissed or put on hold until he leaves office, Judge Schechter found today that Trump’s new title offers him no such privilege.
“It is settled that the president of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts,” Schechter said.
Schecter’s 19-page opinion relies heavily on a 1997 ruling where the Supreme Court upheld a defamation suit against then-President Bill Clinton.
“In holding that the doctrine of separation of powers did not mandate a stay of all private actions against the president, the court flatly rejected that ‘interactions between the judicial branch and the executive, even quite burdensome interactions, necessarily rise to the level of constitutionally forbidden impairment of the executive’s ability to perform its constitutionally mandated functions,” Schechter said of the 1997 case.
Speaking of her client’s victory, Allred said: “I am very happy.”
Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz meanwhile announced plans to immediately appeal and seek a stay of the ruling.
“We disagree with this decision, which is wrong as a matter of constitutional law,” Kasowitz said in a statement.