Trump could be questioned under oath as ex-Apprentice contestant allowed to continue defamation case over ‘groping’

The court said since Trump isn’t president anymore the issues he presented had become moot

Stuti Mishra
Wednesday 31 March 2021 08:02 BST
Summer Zervos filed the suit in 2017 when Trump called her accusations of sexual harassment a lie
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New York’s highest court has allowed a defamation suit against Donald Trump by a former contestant of the reality show “Apprentice” to continue, now that he is no longer in office, increasing the legal troubles of the former president.

The ruling by the New York court on Tuesday clears the way for the suit filed by Summer Zervos in 2017, where she said the former president defamed her when he said the sexual harassment allegations against him were lies.

Ms Zervos in the weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign had said Mr Trump groped and kissed her in a hotel room in 2017 against her will.

Earlier, the lawsuit could not proceed as Mr Trump’s lawyers argued that under the US constitution, state courts are not authorised to hear cases against a sitting president. The case in the high court had been on hold since 2020 as it denied permission to lawyers of Ms Zervos to gather pretrial evidence or quiz the president.

However, now that Mr Trump isn’t the president anymore, the New York court where his attorneys had filed an appeal issued the order of moving the case forward saying the issues Mr Trump presented had become moot.

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“The trial court ruled against him, the appellate division ruled against him and as it was pending here, he left office, so the issue disappeared,” said Gary Spencer, a spokesman for the court was quoted by the US media as saying.

Tuesday’s ruling means that Mr Trump could be questioned under oath for the lawsuit. While the lawsuit is against defamatory comments, it might end up with an investigation of sexual harassment claims.

Beth Wilkinson, the lawyer for Ms Zervos, told the media that she had moved to dismiss Mr Trump’s appeal the day he left office.

“Now as a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice for Ms Zervos and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims,” Ms Wilkinson said.

The questioning, known as deposition, will be the first since Mr Trump became president and is one of the plethoras of legal cases he is facing, including many of sexual harassment.

Ms Zervos is seeking a retraction of the comments and an apology from the former president as well as damages.

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