US President Donald J. Trump participates in a health care discussion in the White House in Washington, DC , USA, 10 March 2017.

Trump’s lawyers try to shield him from sexual misconduct lawsuit

In the weeks leading up to the presidential election, nearly a dozen women came forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. The Republican denied each of the allegations and vowed to sue the women after the election.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/28/17, 9:16 PM ET

Fired US attorney at nexus of multiple Trump scandals

Rachel Maddow reports on the number of investigations tied to Donald Trump that were being conducted through the office of Preet Bharara before the Trump administration fired him as U.S. attorney.
Rachel Maddow reports on the number of investigations tied to Donald Trump that were being conducted through the office of Preet Bharara before the Trump administration fired him as U.S. attorney.
Like so many of Trump’s claims, the promise turned out to be untrue, but that doesn’t mean the accusations are behind him. On the contrary, one of the women has now sued the president for defamation, and as USA Today reported, Trump’s attorneys have responded to the litigation by saying he should be immune from the lawsuit – because he’s too busy being president to be distracted by the case.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant from The Apprentice, sued Trump in New York on Jan. 17, just days before the inauguration. She came forward in October and accused Trump of kissing and groping her in a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2007. Trump denied the accusation, including a series of tweets calling the sexual misconduct allegations “100% fabricated and made-up charges,” “totally false” and “totally made up nonsense.”

Zervos’ attorney, Gloria Allred, demanded a retraction, to no avail. So, she sued. Zervos’ lawsuit claims the alleged defamation was “detrimental to Ms. Zervos’s reputation, honor and dignity.”
Trump’s lawyers – his private counsel, not the White House counsel – told the court this week the case could “distract a President from his public duties to the detriment of not only the President and his office but also the Nation.”

If all of this sounds kind of familiar, there’s a good reason for that: a couple of decades ago, Paula Jones sued then-President Bill Clinton under similar circumstances, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Clinton. Those involved in the legal proceedings would need to accommodate the president’s unique schedule, the justices said, but no one, not even the Leader of the Free World, is immune from civil litigation for conduct unrelated to his office.

So why is this even an issue? Because according to Team Trump, this case is a little different: Jones filed a federal sexual harassment case, while Zervos’ lawsuit is in a state court. What’s more, the Jones case unfolded during Clinton’s presidency, while Zervos filed before Trump was inaugurated.

A Washington Post report added, “A ruling that Trump cannot be sued in state courts would have implications far beyond the case of the former “Apprentice” contestant. Even if a judge rules against Trump, the legal wrangling could delay the defamation case, which is still in its early stages. [Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz] argued that all discovery in the case should be put on hold until the issue is resolved.”

Given the potential consequences, this is a case worth watching, but it’s not the only one. Trump’s fraud allegations in the “Trump University” case are still unresolved, as Politico reported overnight:
Days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, he did something he’d long vowed never to do: fork over $25 million to settle long-running fraud lawsuits over his Trump University seminar program. But a former student in Florida is balking at the settlement and asking to be allowed to pursue her claims to trial – exactly what the president apparently wished to avoid.

Overall, the settlement offer has won support among many former Trump University students, who are slated to get anywhere from about $1,200 to $30,000, about 80 percent of what they paid.

Those who aren’t satisfied with the offer include Florida bankruptcy attorney Sherri Simpson, who says she paid nearly $19,000 in 2010 for seminars and a mentorship program. She’s arguing that she should be able to continue the litigation in order to see Trump’s alleged fraud publicly exposed.
All of this, of course, is unrelated to the other civil suits Trump is involved in, not to mention the ongoing FBI counter-espionage investigation into the Trump campaign.