'Apprentice' contestant's Trump defamation suit can proceed

Summer Zervos Donald Trump

'Apprentice' contestant's Trump defamation suit can proceed

A New York State appeals court on Thursday delivered some bad news to President Donald Trump, perhaps telegraphing a larger message to Congress and the Dept. of Justice.

A NY appeals court on Thursday rejected President Trump's attempt to block the defamation suit of an Orange County woman who says he lied during the 2016 campaign about sexually assaulting her at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Mr. Trump's lawyers have long sought to halt the case brought by Summer Zervos, a California restaurateur who appeared in 2006 on Mr. Trump's NBC reality show "The Apprentice".

Ms Zervos first came forward in October 2016, the month before Mr Trump was elected, after an Access Hollywood recording showed the then-Republican candidate speaking in vulgar terms about women.

It now means that Zervos' lawyers may get the chance to grill Trump under oath about whether he defamed her by calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual misconduct.

Ms Zervos has repeatedly accused Mr Trump of kissing her against her will at a 2007 meeting in NY, and later groping her at a Beverly Hills hotel.

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling two decades ago in a case involving alleged sexual misconduct by President Bill Clinton, a majority of judges on the panel said presidents can be sued in state courts over things they did that aren't related to their official duties.

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"We believe that the well-reasoned dissenting opinion by 2 of the 5 justices, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Clinton v. Jones case, is correct in concluding that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars state courts from hearing cases against the President while he or she is in office", he wrote. They also say his comments were opinions and protected free speech.

Zervos sued in 2017, saying Mr. Trump had hurt her reputation, harmed her business and caused threats to be made against her. But in their ruling on Thursday, the court said that finding the president in contempt would be a "hypothetical scenario that is highly unlikely to occur in the context of this lawsuit".

She says she didn't go public with her allegations for nearly a decade because she admired Trump as a businessman and thought he had had just a couple of episodes of bad behavior with her.

The trial judge has allowed discovery to move forward while the president's appeal was pending.

The judge then added that the Supreme Court said in reference to the Jones case,"The Supreme Court also considered that '[i] f Congress deems it appropriate to afford the President stronger protection, it may respond with appropriate legislation'".

That lawsuit was dismissed on March 7.

Summer Zervos, left, leaves NY state appellate court with here attorney Mariann Wang, Thursday in October past year.

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