Friday 22 June 2018

Lawyers for Trump and ex-Apprentice contestant argue in court

Summer Zervos, who appeared in 2006 on Donald Trump’s reality show The Apprentice, has sued him for saying her sexual misconduct claims were lies.

Summer Zervos (Kathy Willens/AP)
Summer Zervos (Kathy Willens/AP)

By Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press

Lawyers for US President Donald Trump have argued in court that a former Apprentice contestant should not be able to obtain information on his campaign’s discussions of other women who have also accused him of sexual misconduct.

The New York court hearing was the first since a Manhattan judge turned down Mr Trump’s bid to dismiss Summer Zervos’s defamation lawsuit or delay it until after his presidency.

Ms Zervos has sued the president for saying her sexual misconduct claims were lies.

“It’s a defamation case,” Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz told Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter.

As for information about other women who are not part of the case, “those claims, that evidence … is irrelevant”, he said.

Mariann Wang, a lawyer representing Ms Zervos, said outside court that the other women’s accusations were indeed relevant, adding: “It’s a defamation case, so we are required to prove the falsity of the statements, and his statements include statements about other women.”

Ms Zervos’s lawyers have issued subpoenas seeking a range of information about Mr Trump’s behaviour towards women, including any Apprentice material that features Ms Zervos or Mr Trump talking about her or discussing other female contestants in a sexual or inappropriate way.

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Donald Trump (Susan Walsh/AP)

They have also requested any Trump campaign records concerning Ms Zervos, any other woman who has accused Mr Trump of inappropriate touching or the 2016 emergence of a 2005 Access Hollywood recording of Mr Trump talking about aggressively groping women.

Ms Zervos’s lawyers have also subpoenaed security video, records of Mr Trump’s stays and some other information from the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Ms Zervos claims Mr Trump made some of his unwelcome advances towards her.

The court hearing lasted less than an hour and mostly dealt with procedural issues such as deadlines and scheduling.

While Mr Trump’s lawyers emphasised that they are continuing to ask appeals courts to throw out or postpone the case, the judge set deadlines for a number of information-gathering steps – including depositions, or sworn questioning of both Mr Trump and Ms Zervos by January 29.

Mr Kasowitz noted, however, that Mr Trump might potentially need extensions on deadlines because of the “significant attendant duties” of the presidency.

Ms Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on Mr Trump’s former reality show The Apprentice.

She claims he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping when she sought career advice in 2007.

Ms Zervos was among more than a dozen women who came forward late in the 2016 presidential campaign to say that Mr Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted them.

The Republican denied all of the claims, saying they were “100 percent fabricated” and “totally false” and his accusers were “liars”.

He specifically contested Ms Zervos’s allegations in a statement and retweeted a message that included her photo and described her claims as a “hoax”.

Ms Zervos said his words hurt her reputation, harmed her business and led to threats against her.

She is seeking a retraction, an apology and compensatory and punitive damages.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have said his statements were true, and also that his remarks were “non-defamatory opinions” that came amid the heated public debate of a national political campaign.

They also argue that a sitting president cannot be sued in a state court.

Press Association

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