A New York court on Tuesday put a hold on former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos’ defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump, sending the case to New York’s highest court and delaying a possible deposition of the President.
The decision by a New York intermediate appellate court freezes proceedings until a New York court of appeals determines whether to dismiss the case entirely, allow it to continue or postpone until Trump is out of office.
There was a January 31 deadline for Trump to be deposed, which now is on hold, a spokesman for Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz said.
Zervos sued Trump in January 2017, alleging that he defamed her in 2016 after she made a public statement about her allegation that Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007. She claims 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.
Trump has denied the allegations.
After the suit was filed, Trump’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing the President has immunity from such lawsuits in state courts and that the case would conflict with Trump’s official duties. They also said that Trump’s frequent denials of accusations made by Zervos and others were protected political speech as statements of opinion.
Moira Penza, an attorney on Zervos’ legal team, told CNN in a statement Tuesday, “We look forward to presenting our arguments before the Court of Appeals and continuing to advocate on Ms. Zervos’s behalf. We remain confident that we will prove her defamation claim in court and that Mr. Trump will face responsibility for his actions.”
Kasowitz on Tuesday said “We are pleased” with the court’s decision.
“We believe that the Court of Appeals will agree that the US Constitution bars state court actions while the President is in office,” he said.
In November 2019, Trump and the Trump Organization released phone records for a three-month period in 2007 and 2008 that show several calls between Trump and Zervos. Zervos’ attorney at the time, Mariann Wang, said the records showed that Zervos and Trump “were exactly where she said they were exactly when she said they were there.”
A month earlier, the Trump Organization made available Trump’s itineraries for the alleged days in question.
Wang argued that Zervos’ account has been corroborated “in close detail” by the calendar entries and itineraries from late 2007 through early 2008 — the period that includes the day in which Zervos says she met with and was assaulted by Trump. Wang says these documents “line up with Zervos’ detailed public account with striking accuracy.”
Zervos is one of more than a dozen other women have accused Trump of various forms of sexual misconduct. The President has denied all of the allegations.
This story has been updated with information about Trump’s deposition.