Former ‘Apprentice’ contestant sues Trump. Will presidential immunity shield him?

Summer Zervos first accused Donald Trump of making unwanted advances in October. The then-presidential candidate dubbed her and other women who made similar claims 'liars.' Now, Ms. Zervos is suing for an apology and $2,914.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais and Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
In this combination photo, President Trump (l.) listens during a March 13, 2017, meeting at the White House and Summer Zervos, a former contestant on 'The Apprentice' appears at a news conference in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2016, to announce claims that Trump made unwanted sexual contact with her at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2007.

President Trump’s lawyer said the president is immune while in office from the defamation claims brought by a former "Apprentice" contestant who accused him of sexual harassment. 

Summer Zervos, one of more than a dozen women who said before the November election that Mr. Trump made unwanted sexual advances to them, sued the president days before his inauguration. But in a legal filing to the New York State Supreme Court on Monday, the president’s private lawyers said they will formally ask for a dismissal or suspension of the litigation as it may distract the president from performing his duties. 

Trump's lawyers said the president denies "these unfounded accusations" and was prepared to show that they were "false, legally insufficient and made in a transparent politically-motivated attack." 

Ms. Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s reality show in 2006, said during an October news conference that Trump initiated unwanted sexual contact with her at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2007 – days after a decade-old "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump bragged about groping and kissing women surfaced. Her lawsuit, filed in January, seeks an apology for defaming her character and $2,914.

Trump responded to her initial claim by tweeting at the time that Zervos’s charges were “100 percent fabricated and made-up” and “nonsense.” Dubbing her and other women who made similar claims “liars,” Trump also threatened to sue the accusers after the election. 

Noting that the allegations had been disputed by one of Zervos’s family members, Trump’s lawyers said in the Monday filings that the US Constitution immunizes Trump from being sued in state court while he is president. 

Zervos's attorneys argue that the precedent set by the US Supreme Court in the landmark 1997 Clinton v. Jones ruling makes clear that "no man is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States."

Paula Corbin Jones in 1994 filed a lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton while he was in office, alleging that he sexually harassed her while he was the governor of Arkansas. Lawyers for Mr. Clinton had sought a delay from the high court citing concerns that it would affect the presidential duties and “could trigger an avalanche of frivolous copycat suits seeking damages from the president,” as The Christian Science Monitor’s Warren Richey reported in 1997.

The court disagreed, saying the immunity granted by the Constitution does not apply to suits related to the president’s private actions. 

“The principal rationale for affording certain public servants immunity from suits for money damages arising out of their official acts is inapplicable to unofficial conduct. In cases involving prosecutors, legislators, and judges we have repeatedly explained that the immunity serves the public interest in enabling such officials to perform their designated functions effectively without fear that a particular decision may give rise to personal liability,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the 1997 opinion. 

According to an investigation by USA Today, at least 75 private lawsuits against Trump remained open when he assumed the office in January. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Former ‘Apprentice’ contestant sues Trump. Will presidential immunity shield him?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today