Why the Summer Zervos case might be the most dangerous for Trump

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President Trump may never sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, but it’s looking more likely he’ll have to answer questions as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by a former contestant on “The Apprentice.”

A ruling by a New York state judge this week said Trump can be deposed in the defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, the former contestant who has accused Trump of unwanted advances.

Some see the legal fight, which has received less publicity than other cases, as the most dangerous to Trump because it could lead to testimony where he’d risk lying or making a misstatement under oath. 

{mosads}But legal experts expect Trump’s attorneys to do everything they can to keep him from being interviewed.

“It will not surprise me if they do everything and anything they can to stall this case and the taking of Mr. Trump’s deposition,” said Gloria Allred, who previously represented Zervos in the case.

Allred, however, predicted the efforts will be unsuccessful.

“They can try to avoid, they can try to evade the taking of the deposition, but I believe that it will happen and that judgment day is coming,” she said.

New York State Judge Jennifer Schecter ruled that Zervos’s attorneys have until Jan. 31, 2019, to get Trump’s testimony and that the interview can last up to seven hours.

Trump’s legal team has already appealed Schecter’s March decision to let the case proceed to the state’s highest court, arguing it should be dismissed.

Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz said the issue will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the New York Daily News reported.

In briefs, Kasowitz said the case should be dismissed. The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, he said, prevents a state court from hearing a case against a sitting president.

If the deposition does go forward, David Super, a professor at Georgetown Law, said it will require Trump to be disciplined and deny only those things that are false even if that means he has to admit to things he might not want to acknowledge as true.

“If he perjures himself that raises the potential for a much more lasting and dangerous situation,” Super said.

Perjury is an impeachable offense and one of the “high crimes and misdemeanor” charges in the impeachment proceedings brought against former President Clinton in 1998 after he lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University Law School, said the Zervos case presents a similar considerable risk for Trump.

“The obvious comparison to the Clinton case is inescapable,” said Turley, an opinion contributor to The Hill.

In ruling that the Zervos case could proceed, Schecter ruled that no one is above the law.

“It is settled that the President of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts,” she wrote, quoting the Supreme Court’s 1997 landmark decision that allowed Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit to proceed against Clinton.  

Turley said any attempts from Trump’s legal team to squash a deposition isn’t likely to go over well. Not only are courts of appeal averse to micromanaging the lower courts, he said the court precedent is clear.

“The president is not immune from giving a deposition,” he said. “It’s true federal courts have said there should be deference given to the president’s time in scheduling and in the length of deposition, but it’s well-established the president doesn’t have immunity from giving a civil deposition.” 

Allred said Zervos’s attorneys have offered to accommodate Trump’s schedule and if necessary take his deposition between rounds of golf at Mar-a-Lago.

Kasowitz did not respond to requests for comment on the court’s order or about Trump’s defense.

Zervos’s attorney Mariann Wang also refused to comment for this story.

Wang, however, said in court Tuesday that she wants to question Trump about the other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, according to multiple reports.

Kasowitz argued that evidence would be irrelevant since those women are not claiming that Trump defamed them, The New York Daily News reported.

Allred disagrees. She said questioning Trump about allegations from other women could show whether or not he had a “modus operandi” or a pattern of sexually assaulting women.

Zervos says that Trump repeatedly kissed and groped her without her consent in 2007 after she appeared on his reality show.

She filed her defamation case after she went public with her allegations during Trump’s campaign and he accused her of making up a “phony” story to get attention, calling her account “100 percent fabricated.”

Zervos is now seeking an apology from the president and about $3,000 in damages.

Allred said she represents three women who allege they were sexually assaulted by Trump who are willing to testify against him and knows of others she’s not representing who would also come forward.

Regardless of what comes from a deposition, Turley said the Zervos case is likely to make it harder for Trump to refuse a face-to-face interview with Mueller in the future. 

“It would be very odd for the president to sit down for a seven-hour deposition on a relatively small harassment claim in New York, but refuse to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation,” he said.

Tags Donald Trump Gloria Allred Robert Mueller

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