NEW YORK (CN) – President Donald Trump intends to assert immunity in a lawsuit claiming he defamed a former candidate on “The Apprentice” by denying that he sexually assaulted her, as she says.
Trump’s maneuver to dismiss the lawsuit that dogged him days before his inauguration came to light in a 13-page memorandum filed Monday.
On Jan. 17, ex-reality TV contestant Summer Zervos filed a lawsuit accusing the then-president elected of having “ambushed” her on “more than one occasion” at a Beverly Hills hotel room. Zervos said that Trump kissed her on the mouth repeatedly, touched her breast and pressed his genitals up against her.
“Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching,” her 20-page lawsuit said. “Instead, she repeatedly expressed that he should stop his inappropriate sexual behavior, including by shoving him away from her forcefully, and telling him to ‘get real.’”
Logging onto Twitter, Trump immediately denied the allegations as “made up events THAT NEVER HAPPENED,” “100% fabricated and made-up charges,” and “made up stories and lies.”
Zervos’s defamation suit focuses on Trump’s denials rather than his alleged conduct.
Trump’s lawyers say a long line of U.S. Supreme Court cases requires courts to show deference to the president and his schedule.
“This procedure is in accordance with a long line of U.S. Supreme Court cases that require the courts to show deference to the President and his schedule and that require immunity issues to be resolved first, because immunity does not just insulate a defendant from liability, but spares him or her from the burden of defending against a lawsuit in the first place,” the motion says.
To support his argument, Trump lawyer Mark Kasowitz cited Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton. That case led to the landmark Supreme Court ruling finding that the sitting president has no immunity from civil litigation.
But, Trump’s lawyer said, the case also proved that the court must address immunity issues before reaching the substance of the claims.
“Here, allowing litigation on the merits to proceed prior to resolution of this crucial and threshold constitutional issue would unduly burden the President and would defeat the purpose of Presidential immunity,” Kasowitz’s memo states.
Famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing Zervos, said that Trump’s lawyers drew the wrong lesson from the Clinton case.
“The United States Supreme Court addressed this legal immunity issue in Clinton v. Jones and determined unanimously that no man is above the law and that includes the President of the United States,” she wrote in a statement.
“We look forward to arguing this in court,” she added.
Zervos had been one of more than a dozen women who stepped forward against Trump as of late October, several of whom joined after a 2005 video came to light showing Trump boasting to “Access Hollywood” that he could grope women because of his celebrity.
“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy,” Trump told the show’s cackling ex-host Billy Bush.
Quoting the remark in her lawsuit, Zervos seeks damages and an apology.