On Tuesday, a New York appeals court ruled that a defamation lawsuit against ex-President Donald Trump from ex-Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos can move forward. Although it’s unclear whether she will be successful, Zervos is seeking a deposition from Trump as part of the case. Zervos sued Trump after he denied her story of suffering sexual assault that he perpetrated, but her case had been in limbo since early 2020 over the question of whether a sitting president could be subject to state court proceedings while in office. That question is now “moot,” as the court noted in their brief order.
As summarized by CNN, Zervos “has alleged that Trump kissed her twice on the lips during a lunch meeting in his New York City office, and on a separate occasion in Beverly Hills, she alleges he kissed her aggressively and touched her breast.” She is one of a substantial number of women who’ve said that they were victims of sexual harassment and assault that Trump perpetrated. Another woman, E. Jean Carroll, has also filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump after he derogatorily dismissed her story. Trump claimed that Carroll “made up the story to sell a new book,” as Reuters summarized.
In the Carroll case, the Department of Justice recently argued that Trump should be removed as a defendant from the case and replaced with the government itself, which would essentially end the proceedings because of legally established immunity on the federal government’s part from claims like Carroll’s. In January, Reuters reported that it was “unclear whether the Justice Department will pursue the case on Trump’s behalf after the Jan. 20 inauguration.” Carroll, like Zervos, is seeking a deposition from the ex-president as part of her case. She’s also seeking a DNA sample for comparison to an article of clothing that she wore during the original incident.
Besides these defamation cases, Trump is also facing legal problems including criminal investigations in Manhattan and Georgia dealing with potential fraud at his business and his efforts to subvert the Georgia presidential election outcome, respectively. Both of those investigations remain ongoing, and any shield from liability that Trump had thanks to the presidency is gone.