After an Access Hollywood video was leaked during the presidential campaign that showed Donald Trump boasting about kissing and groping women without their consent, more than a dozen women came forward alleging they were victims of sexual misconduct committed by Trump.
One of the accusers was former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who alleged Trump kissed her very aggressively and put his hand on her breast without her consent in 2007.
Trump called all the accusations lies and promised to sue his accusers. He has not. Instead, Zervos sued him — claiming he defamed her when he accused her and the other women of “lies” and “total fabrication.” Zervos is seeking $2,914 in damages from the suit.
Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan, a serious-looking Zervos sat through an hour-long hearing before New York State Supreme Court Judge Jennifer Schecter, who heard oral arguments in the case.
Schecter will now determine if the case will go forward through the courts.
Zervos did not give a comment after the hearing, but her attorney, Gloria Allred, told a large scrum of reporters and cameramen jostling in a hallway outside the courtroom: “No man is above the law, even the president of the United States.” She added: “Reputation matters. Truth matters.”
Marc E. Kasowitz, a lawyer for Trump, argued that the case should be dismissed or stayed until he leaves the presidency, claiming that a sitting president cannot be sued in state court and that his comments amounted to political speech.
Kasowitz also noted that the president must be available 24/7 to work on matters related to the functioning of the government.
Zervos’ attorney Mariann Wang argued that the case should indeed proceed, and that the United States Supreme Court ruling allowed Paula Jones to bring a sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton while he was in office.
Wang also indicated that she would be flexible in working with Trump.
“We can certainty ensure that we take a deposition down at Mar-a-Largo in between his playing golf,” she said.
Wang disputed that the case is political. “Defense makes much of fact that it is politically motivated but he doesn’t quote from Ms. Zervos’s statement,” she said. “It is factual, careful and describes him thrusting his genitals at her and grabbing her breasts.”
She added that every time Trump made a false statement about Zervos during the campaign — that she made false smears for fame, that she made up outright lies to elect Hillary Clinton president — Zervos suffered. This included being called “horrible names” on the phone and physical threats.
Trump’s attorneys left without comment.
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Zevos’ attorneys have also subpoenaed the president’s campaign for “all documents” related to “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.” This could lead to his accusers being deposed — giving sworn testimony about their accusations.
It could also force Trump to testify under oath, and attorneys have noted that it was Bill Clinton’s misleading sworn testimony under oath that led to his impeachment.
“It’s almost a train you can’t stop going down the tracks,” Joseph Cammarata, who represented Paula Jones against Clinton and, more recently, represented seven Cosby accusers in a defamation suit, told The Washington Post. “It opens him up to have to answer questions about sexual relations, other relationships, what might have been said, to open up your whole life.”
Trump, meanwhile, has called the ongoing legal case against him “totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful.”
Norm Eisen, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama, has told PEOPLE the lawsuit is “critically important” because “the president’s alleged offenses against women, of sexual harassment, sexual assault, are very serious, much more serious than many of those that have resulted in people losing their jobs.
“That should get a full and fair examination,” Eisen says, “and at the moment that lawsuit is the best vehicle we have to do that.”