President Donald Trump isn’t above the law — and if he has time to play golf at Mar-a-Largo he can defend himself in a civil defamation lawsuit, a lawyer for a former “Apprentice” contestant argued in Manhattan state court Tuesday.
Summer Zervos is suing Trump for calling her a liar after she accused him of “thrusting his genitals at her and grabbing her breasts” — the groping accusation came just weeks before the 2016 election.
But Trump’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, argued presidents are immune from civil litigation in state courts under the US Constitution’s supremacy clause. That assertion has never been fully tested by the courts.
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“Thomas Jefferson made clear that the president’s responsibilities are 24/7, every single day no matter what he or she is doing. So there can’t be any curtailment,” Kasowitz said.
The president was not required to attend the pre-trial proceeding.
Zervos’ attorney, Mariann Wang, countered that Trump “cannot be allowed to purposefully attack a woman who has accurately described his groping and get off scot free.”
Trump has denied Zervos’ claims of sexual misconduct at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007. He also says he never called Zervos a “liar” and was referring generally to “lies” by other women who accused him of sexual assault.
Wang argued that while “it’s certainly true that a president has to do his job 24 hours a day, he’s also a human being who does not do his job 24 hours a day.”
“We can certainly ensure that we take a deposition down at Mar-a-Largo in between his playing golf,” Wang quipped.
The judge expressed some concern that Trump — who has publicly criticized other jurists who ruled against him — may try to flout her authority.
“What would happen if the president didn’t follow my orders,” she asked Wang.
“I don’t believe that … will occur,” Wang said.
“I hope not,” the judge added.
In his rebuttal Kasowtiz said that both the president and Zervos are protected by the First Amendment, especially in the course of a heated political campaign.
“Ms. Zervos chose to come forward and speak publicly about her experience with Mr. Trump. She injected herself, she instigated a debate,” he said.
Wang retorted that her client simply “detailed report of her interaction with at the time Donald Trump and it sticks to the facts and it describes him thrusting his genitals at her and grabbing her breasts.”
The judge said she’d consider the arguments and documents and then issue a ruling. She did not provide a time frame for her decision.