The Slatest

The New Trump Defamation Lawsuit Is Daring Trump to Incriminate Himself in Court

Summer Zervos attends a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred to announce their defamation lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday in L.A.

David McNew/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES—One of the women who accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct last year has filed a defamation lawsuit against the president-elect. Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant who alleged in October that Trump groped and kissed her without consent, announced the lawsuit on Tuesday from the offices of her attorney, Gloria Allred.

Her hands visibly shaking as she held a copy of her statement, Zervos said she had “no alternative” but to sue Trump to vindicate her reputation. The lawsuit seems designed to either force Trump into a confession or into giving potentially embarrassing or incriminating testimony in court. Both Zervos and Allred said the lawsuit would be dropped if Trump retracted his statements calling the women who accused him of assault and misconduct “liars.”

Multiple times during the press conference, Allred made an analogy to Paula Jones’ sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton. In a deposition in that case, Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It was that lie that led to Clinton’s impeachment. “If President Trump decides not to testify truthfully under oath in this case, should he be required to provide his deposition and or testify at trial, then I think Congress will have a very important decision to make,” Allred said. “I would hope that [Republicans who supported Clinton’s impeachment] would put partisanship aside and do the right thing, apply the same standard to president Trump as was applied to President Clinton.”

While that hypothetical is a long way away, the lawsuit does establish the possibility for a whole lot of evidence to be revealed in court. When I asked Allred at the press conference if any of the other women who have accused Trump would be participating in the lawsuit, she said that she could not say, citing attorney-client privilege. She did note, however, that Allred and Zervos would be attending the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday to protest Trump’s Friday inauguration and that “other accusers” would “be there marching with us.”

Zervos’ lawsuit focuses on a number of allegations that she laid out in an October press conference, which also took place at Allred’s office. The “unwanted touching” is described in the lawsuit as follows:

Ms. Zervos was ambushed by Mr. Trump on more than one occasion. Mr. Trump suddenly, and without her consent, kissed her on her mouth repeatedly; he touched her breast; and he pressed his genitals up against her. Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching. Instead, she repeatedly expressed that he should stop his inappropriate sexual behavior, including by shoving him away from her forcefully, and telling him to “get real.” Mr. Trump did not care, he kept touching her anyway.

The goal of the defamation suit will be to prove that Trump lied when he denied inappropriate and potentially illegal sexual behavior toward Zervos and other women. As such, it cites a series of Trump’s tweets and public statements, ones in which he denies the misconduct allegations, calls the women involved liars, and says they were seeking publicity and to damage his campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

The suit cites “[d]eliberately false, defamatory statements spewed forth and out of his Twitter account—often at odd hours, and on information and belief, written and posted from his home in New York City—and unfettered at large rallies to angry crowds.”

More from the suit:

Mr. Trump immediately lied, saying that he “never met [Ms. Zervos] at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately.” He quickly went further, describing Ms. Zervos’s experience, along with those of others, as “made up events THAT NEVER HAPPENED;” “100% fabricated and made-up charges;” “totally false;” “totally phoney [sic] stories, 100% made up by women (many already proven false);” “made up stories and lies;” “[t]otally made up nonsense.” He falsely stated: “Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign, total fabrication. The events never happened.” During the last presidential debate, he stated that these women were either being put forward by the Clinton campaign, or were motivated to come forward by getting “ten minutes of fame,” and nothing more.

Zervos met Donald Trump in 2005, when she appeared on the Apprentice. Allred raised the prospect of subpoenaing the outtakes from that show, which have long been rumored to hold potentially inflammatory comments from Trump.

“We would certainly seek any and all information and documents, recordings, etc., which may be relevant to the litigation of our lawsuit,” she said. “We’ll see what NBC decides [to do] if and when they are served a subpoena.”

The lawsuit cites the infamous outtake tape from Access Hollywood, in which Trump boasted about groping and kissing women without their consent, as Zervos’ impetus for coming forward. She had previously been friendly with Trump, which the suit chalks up to her believing his alleged misconduct with her was an isolated incident.

Update, 5:30 p.m. EST: Donald Trump’s spokesperson Hope Hicks sent along this statement: “More of the same from Gloria Allred. There is no truth to this absurd story.”