In a State Supreme Court hearing last December, over a defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump filed by a former Apprentice contestant who claims he assaulted her, the president’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz insisted of his motion to dismiss, “The motion today has nothing to do with putting anyone above the law.”
Justice Jennifer Schecter, it turns out, has no intention of giving the president special treatment. “No one is above the law,” she wrote in a decision, released Tuesday, to allow Summer Zervos’s lawsuit to move forward. In a filing just days before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, Zervos accused the former reality-TV host of “us[ing] his national and international bully pulpit to make false factual statements to denigrate and verbally attack Ms. Zervos and the other women who publicly reported his sexual assaults in October 2016.”
However the lawsuit is ultimately resolved, allowing lawyers to depose Trump over sexual assault allegations could provide reams of previously undisclosed information about our dear leader’s pre-presidential affairs.
In December, Kasowitz argued before Justice Schecter that a state court has no jurisdiction over a sitting president — and also that Trump’s denigration of Zervos and other women who accused his client of sexual assault during the 2016 election constituted protected political speech under the First Amendment. In her ruling, Justice Schecter dismissed both arguments, writing that the president has “no immunity,” and citing the 1997 United States Supreme Court ruling that allowed Paula Jones to sue then-president Bill Clinton. She also noted that, contra Kasowitz, permitting Zervos’s suit to go forward would not curtail the president’s official duties.
Zervos is now one member of an unlikely troika of bombshells — in both senses of the word — who just may be the president’s undoing. She’s joined by Stephanie Clifford, a/k/a Stormy Daniels, the porn actor-director who is suing Trump to get out of a “hush agreement” she signed in October 2016: In exchange for $130,000, Clifford says, she agreed to keep quiet about an affair she had with Trump in 2006, shortly after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son.
And now, a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal who also claims to have had an affair with Trump is launching her own legal challenge to a similar agreement she signed in 2016. McDougal is suing the National Enquirer’s parent company, whose chief executive is a buddy of Trump’s, and which paid the model $150,000 to keep quiet about her relationship with the president.
The goal of all three lawsuits seems clear: to get Trump’s dirty dealings out of the shadows and into the light, for all the world to see. Justice Schecter’s decision means Zervos’s lawyers — who include Gloria Allred — can subpoena documents, and it opens the door for other women who have accused Trump of sexual assault to testify. On Sunday, 60 Minutes plans to air a previously taped interview between Clifford and Anderson Cooper — an interview the president’s lawyers have tried to block the show from airing. Yesterday, it was announced that Cooper would also interview McDougal, on CNN on Thursday night. Whatever happens next, these women aren’t going anywhere, and they’re not shutting up.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 22, 2018