In this Dec. 5, 2017 file photo, Summer Zervos leaves Manhattan Supreme Court at the conclusion of a hearing in New York. 
Kathy Willens/AP Photo

Discovery process produces new details in Trump defamation lawsuit

After Americans heard a recording in which Donald Trump was heard bragging about committing sexual assaults, several women came forward to accuse the Republican of sexual misconduct. Trump dismissed each of the women as liars, prompting one of them, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on his reality television show, to sue the president for defamation.

Trump and his lawyers have spent months trying to make the case go away, insisting that a sitting president is immune to civil suits in state courts. As regular readers know, their efforts have come up short.

As part of the process, new information continues to come to light. The Washington Post had this report today:

More than a decade ago, Donald Trump made phone calls from his cellphone to a former candidate on “The Apprentice” around the same time that she says he sexually assaulted her, according to phone records made public Tuesday.

The excerpts from Trump’s Verizon cellphone bills over a three-month period in 2007 and 2008 show that Trump exchanged calls with Summer Zervos on at least six occasions, including on a day that Trump’s private calendar has shown that he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

According to Zervos’ version of events, it was at the Beverly Hills Hotel that Trump forced himself on her, allegedly groping her in a hotel room.

The president’s lawyers have repeatedly denied the allegations.

According to Zervos’ lawyer, the phone records corroborate her account “of the sexual assaults with even more granularity and with a degree of precision that [Zervos] could not have known were she not telling the truth about those interactions when she spoke publicly about them before this case was filed.”

It’s worth emphasizing that we don’t yet know information about the nature of the phone calls. As best as I can tell, Trump denied meeting and assaulting Zervos, but he hasn’t denied speaking with her over the phone.

That said, as USA Today’s report added, her lawyer argued in the latest legal memorandum that Zervos, before the lawsuit was filed, “publicly described exactly when, where, and how the sexual assaults took place.” The lawyer added that Trump “has now been forced to produce documents from his own files confirming that he and (Zervos) were exactly where she said they were exactly when she said they were there.”

All of this comes against a backdrop in which writer E. Jean Carroll, who’s accused Trump of a violent sexual assault, has also filed a new lawsuit accusing the president of defamation.

As for the Zervos case, the latest details emerged as part of the discovery process in this case, and that process is ongoing. That’s of interest for reasons that relate directly to the defamation suit, of course, but there may be related implications.

As we’ve discussed before, Zervos’ representatives have raised the prospect of seeking, among other things, documents from the Trump Organization about the president’s alleged mistreatment of other women, as well as recordings from the archives of the president’s former reality show.

A recent Washington Post report added that a judge has set a Dec. 6 deadline for depositions, “meaning Trump may have to make a statement or answer questions under oath.”

That may be right around the time of the president’s impeachment in an unrelated scandal.