One of Donald Trump’s sexual misconduct accusers is suing the president-elect for defamation.
Former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos is launching the legal action, her attorney, Gloria Allred said in a news conference on January 17. Allred pledged in the press conference to seek Trump’s deposition, in which his statements would be made under oath.
You can read the lawsuit here:
“Today’s the day. It’s time to face the consequences,” Allred said. “Women are not a footnote to history. They matter. We value them. We value our daughters, we value our sisters, we value our mothers…”
Zervos was one of a string of women who said Trump subjected them to unwanted advances. The allegations – which Trump strongly denied – emerged shortly before the election but didn’t derail Trump’s victory. You can watch the video of Zervos initially making the claims here.
Zervos’ lawsuit announcement comes just three days before Trump’s inauguration.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Allred Says Zervos Passed a Polygraph
Allred contended in the January 17 press conference that Zervos has passed a polygraph test, which can be admissible in California courts.
In the weeks before the election, Zervos had come forward, with Allred at her side, to accuse Trump of groping her and trying to have sex with her “during a job interview several years after her appearance on his reality-TV show,” The Daily Beast reported.
The lawsuit alleges, “Ms. Zervos was ambushed by Mr. Trump on more than one occasion. Mr. Trump suddenly, and without her consent, kissed her on her mouth repeatedly; he touched her breast; and he pressed his genitals up against her. Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching. Instead, she repeatedly expressed that he should stop his inappropriate sexual behavior, including by shoving him away from her forcefully, and telling him to ‘get real.’ Mr. Trump did not care, he kept touching her anyway.”
Allred is a celebrity lawyer with strong Democratic Party ties. She said in the news conference that she wants to depose Trump.
When asked what impact the lawsuit will have on the presidency, Allred said: “That depends what his (Trump’s) reaction is to the filing of this lawsuit. In the event that we are able to take his deposition under oath, of course he will have the responsibility to testify truthfully… if he does not, there are always serious consequences in the legal system for those who do not testify truthfully under oath.”
Allred challenged Trump to admit to Zervos’ allegations, saying, “If he would simply retract and acknowledge his conduct against Ms. Zervos, she will dismiss the lawsuit… that’s all that it would take.”
2. The Lawsuit Accuses Trump of Lying When He Denied Zervos’ Claims
According to LawNewz, Allred says the suit accuses Trump of “knowingly lying in October when he was asked about what allegedly happened with Zervos.”
Allred said in the news conference that Trump “knowingly, intentionally, and maliciously threw each of these women under the bus,” referring to the list of women who had accused Trump of unwanted contact or overtures.
The lawsuit alleges, “Donald Trump lied again, and again, and again, and again, and again.”
3. The Supreme Court Has Ruled That Sitting Presidents Can Face Lawsuits in Some Cases & Allred Wants to Depose Trump Under Oath
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sitting presidents can be sued in Civil Court for actions before they became president or that are not related to their duties as president, reported LawNewz.
The precedent is the case of Paula Jones, who sued President Bill Clinton after accusing him of sexual harassment, LawNewz reported. The Supreme Court ruled that the immunity to lawsuit did not extend to unofficial conduct by a president. You can read that court ruling here.
Allred said of Trump’s lawyers, “I expect them to attempt to dismiss this case, delay this case, do whatever they think they need to do to represent Mr. Trump vigorously.” She said she hoped the president elect would “do the right thing in reference to Ms. Zervos.”
Allred brought up the Jones allegations against Clinton. “The lawsuit against then President Clinton had consequences for him,” the attorney said. “This lawsuit will have consequences potentially for then president Trump, and it’s really up to him as to what those consequences will be.”
Asked by a reporter whether the lawsuit could lead to impeachment, Allred said, “If President Trump decides not to testify truthfully under oath in this case, should he be required to provide his deposition and/or testify at trial, then I think Congress will have a very important decision to make.”
4. Zervos’ Cousin Tried to Discredit Her Claims
The Donald Trump campaign previously released a lengthy statement from Zervos’ first cousin in an attempt to discredit her claims that Trump had unwanted sexual contact with her.
The statement by John Barry, identified as Zervos’ first cousin, who is from Mission Viejo, California, contends that Zervos “converted her friends and our family to become Trump supporters even though we’ve never been active in politics before.”
He alleges that Zervos’ attitude toward Trump changed when Trump declined an invite to Summer’s restaurant during the primary. Read more about that account here:
5. Zervos Wrote an Email to the Trump Organization After the Alleged Harassment
Donald Trump’s campaign, shortly after Zervos first made her allegations, released an email it says is from his accuser Summer Zervos to Rhona Graff, a high-level Trump official. You can read it in full above. The alleged harassment occurred in 2007, and the email was sent in 2016.
The email was part of Trump’s efforts to push back against allegations.
In it, Zervos writes, “I am in a unique situation being that I am the only former Apprentice who operates a business where Mr. Trump’s supporters can walk in, express their admiration for him and inquire about my experience.”
She continues, “Mr. Trump has a great deal of support in Huntington Beach, Cal. He has witnessed both my highs and lows operating a small business…we hire a diverse crew and embrace anyone who is honest while working hard. Mr. Trump is cut from the same cloth.”
The email concludes, “I would greatly appreciate reconnecting at this time… He will know my intentions are genuine.”
The lawsuit alleges, “Ms. Zervos confided in family and friends when these assaults first occurred in 2007, both after Mr. Trump kissed her on the mouth in New York twice and after he attacked her in a hotel room on a later occasion. But like so many women who have suffered this kind of sexual abuse, Ms. Zervos felt conflicted and confused for years about the incidents. And, also like many women, she tried to take Mr. Trump at his word after she had rejected him, particularly since even after she refused to engage with him sexually, Mr. Trump still seemed interested in mentoring Ms. Zervos and giving her business and job advice.”
The lawsuit says that Zervos continued to look up to Trump. “Ms. Zervos decided
that Mr. Trump’s behavior had either been an isolated set of incidents, or perhaps that he had even regretted the behavior. She continued to look up to him for his success as a businessman, and spoke highly of him after he announced his candidacy.”