Lawyers for Donald Trump argued in court on Tuesday that a former Apprentice TV show contestant should not be able to obtain information on the president’s discussions of other women during the election campaign who have also accused him of sexual misconduct.
The court hearing was the first since a Manhattan judge turned downTrump’s attempt to dismiss Summer Zervos’s defamation lawsuit or delay it until after his presidency. Zervos has sued the president for saying her sexual misconduct claims were lies.
“It’s a defamation case,” Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz told the Manhattan state supreme court justice Jennifer Schecter. As for information about other women who are not part of the case, “those claims, that evidence … is irrelevant”, he said.
Mariann Wang, the lawyer representing Zervos, said outside court that the other women’s accusations were indeed relevant: “It’s a defamation case, so we are required to prove the falsity of the statements, and his statements include statements about other women.”
Zervos’s lawyers have issued subpoenas seeking a range of information about Trump’s behavior toward women, including any Apprentice material that features Zervos or Trump talking about her or discussing other female contestants in a sexual or inappropriate way.
They also have requested any Trump campaign records concerning Zervos, any other woman who has accused Trump of inappropriate touching, or the 2016 emergence of a 2005 Access Hollywood show recording of Trump talking about aggressively groping women.
Zervos’s lawyers also have subpoenaed security video, records of Trump’s stays and some other information from the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Zervos says Trump made unwelcome advances toward her.
While Trump’s lawyers emphasized that they are continuing to ask appeals courts to toss out or postpone the case, the judge set deadlines for a number of information-gathering steps – including depositions, or sworn questioning of both Trump and Zervos by 29 January 2019.
Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on Trump’s former reality show, The Apprentice. She says he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping when she sought career advice in 2007.
She was among more than a dozen women who came forward late in the 2016 presidential campaign to saythat Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted them.
The Republican candidate and now president has denied all of the claims, saying they were “100% fabricated” and “totally false” and his accusers were “liars”.
He specifically contested Zervos’s allegations in a statement and retweeted a message that included her photo and described her claims as a “hoax”.
Zervos says his words hurt her reputation, harmed her business and led to threats against her. She is seeking a retraction, an apology and compensatory and punitive damages.
Trump’s attorneys have said his statements were true, and also that his remarks were “non-defamatory opinions” that came amid the heated public debate of a national political campaign.
They also argue that a sitting president cannot be sued in a state court.