Trump atty: Other women’s claims ‘irrelevant’ in Zervos suit

Jennifer Peltz
The Associated Press

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s lawyers say a former “Apprentice” contestant shouldn’t be able to demand information on his campaign’s discussions of other women who also accused him of sexual misconduct.

But ex-contestant Summer Zervos’ lawyers say Trump’s reactions to all the claims, which he vehemently denied as made up, are relevant to her defamation lawsuit. She has accused him of slurring her by calling her a liar.

A judge hasn’t yet settled the dispute, which emerged during a largely procedural hearing Tuesday. While Trump’s legal team continues to try to get the case dismissed or delayed until after his presidency, a judge set a Jan. 31 deadline for depositions — sworn questioning out of court — of him and Zervos.

The prospect of the president being questioned under oath comes after Zervos and about a dozen other women accused him during his 2016 campaign of having sexually harassed or assaulted them, and a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording emerged of him talking about aggressively groping women. Porn actress Stormy Daniels also has filed a defamation case against Trump, over his insinuation that she lied in saying they had an affair in 2006.

Zervos’ lawyers have subpoenaed any records on his campaign’s response to her — and to the “Access Hollywood” recording and to any accusations of inappropriate sexual touching or behavior.

Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz argued Tuesday that information on other women’s claims was “irrelevant” to Zervos’ defamation case.

Not so, said Zervos’ attorney, Mariann Wang.

“It’s a defamation case, so we are required to prove the falsity of the statements, and his statements include statements about other women,” she said outside court.

Zervos’ lawyers are looking for other information about Trump’s behavior and attitudes toward women. The attorneys also have subpoenaed any “Apprentice” material that features Trump talking about Zervos or discussing other female contestants in a sexual or inappropriate way.

Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, are seeking a court order to keep some documents and information private. The details are yet to be worked out.

Such confidentiality agreements, meant to facilitate the exchange of information between opposing sides, aren’t uncommon. Wang said Trump’s lawyers initially signaled they wanted to seal a swath of filings in the case, but Kasowitz said Tuesday they would narrow their request.

But they are mindful of media interest and might seek additional protections if it “intrudes on the interests and rights of the litigants or looks like it would impair the ability to have a fair trial,” Kasowitz said.

Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on Trump’s former reality show, “The Apprentice.” She says he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping when she sought career advice in 2007.

The Republican denied the claims from Zervos and other women, saying they were “100 percent fabricated” and “totally false” and his accusers were “liars.” He specifically contested Zervos’ allegations in a statement and retweeted a message that included her photo and described her claims as a “hoax.”

Zervos says 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.

Trump’s attorneys 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, so the case should be thrown out or at least postponed until Trump is out of office. That argument is headed to an appeals court after Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter rejected it in March.