A New York court just ruled that a defamation lawsuit against Trump can proceed in state court, even while Trump is still in office.
Donald Trump has spent nearly two years arguing that he can't be sued in state court because he's the president. Yesterday, a New York appellate court told him he's wrong. Now Trump will be spending part of his summer sitting for depositions in the case of Zervos v. Trump.
Summer Zervos was a contestant on "The Apprentice." She also, along with a dozen other women, came forward in October 2016 and accused Trump of a variety of sexual misconduct. In her case, she alleged that Trump kissed her, pressed his genitals against her, and groped her.
Even though Trump had been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, he immediately declared that Zervos and her fellow accusers were all liars, saying they came forward to hurt his campaign and that he would sue them all after the election was over.
Instead, in 2017 Zervos sued Trump for defamation for saying she lied.
Trump and his legal team have fought this for nearly two years. First, they argued that he wasn't defaming her, because calling her a liar was expressing a political opinion. They also argued that Trump couldn't be sued in state court while he is still in office.
Turns out he can. And it is, in part, due to Bill Clinton. In Clinton v. Jones, the United States Supreme Court held that then-President Clinton could be sued while in office for an "unofficial" act — something unrelated to his duties as president.
Clinton was sued in federal court, so the Trump team tried to say that holding doesn't apply to state courts. But the New York appellate court didn't buy that argument, reminding Trump that the United States is a government of laws, not men — which means that even Trump isn't above the law.
Now, the lawsuit goes forward. The deposition deadline is June 28, which means that before then Zervos' lawyers get to question Trump, under oath, about his sexual assault of Zervos. It also means that unless the sides choose to settle or Trump's attorneys get this ruling overturned, we will soon see Trump take the stand to defend his terrible behavior.
For a long time, Trump has treated the presidency like a get out of jail free card. It looks like that time could be coming to an end.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.