Zervos’s defamation suit could put Trump’s whole presidency at risk.
“Summer Zervos is one of many women who has been subjected to unwanted sexual touching by Donald J. Trump.”
So begins the defamation lawsuit filed by Zervos, a restaurant owner and former contestant on The Apprentice, who says Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007 and then called her a liar when she spoke out about it in 2016.
Zervos’s case centers on a disturbing account of sexual assault, an important distinction from two other high-profile legal cases involving women and Trump. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal (who is suing the company that publishes the National Enquirer) say they had consensual affairs with Trump.
Zervos scored a victory on Thursday when a New York appellate court ruled that her suit could go forward, rejecting the Trump team’s argument that a sitting president can’t be sued in state court. Trump’s lawyers plan to appeal the decision, according to the Washington Post.
The potential implications of the Zervos case are huge. When Paula Jones sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment 20 years ago, the Supreme Court set the precedent that a sitting president can’t push off a federal case until after he leaves office. Clinton’s perjury in a deposition in that case ultimately led to his impeachment.
If Zervos’s case enters the discovery phase, Trump could find himself in a dangerous position. Zervos’s lawyers could seek a broad range of information from Trump and his campaign — they’ve already subpoenaed all campaign documents relating to “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”
In discovery, Zervos’s lawyers could also depose Trump, forcing