Trump appeals to delay ex-‘Apprentice’ lawsuit

Erik Larson
Bloomberg News

President Donald Trump asked a New York appeals court to put on hold a defamation lawsuit by a former candidate on his reality television show "The Apprentice," who claims he sexually harassed her.

His lawyers argue that he’s immune from litigation and want time to seek to overturn a decision denying his request to throw the case out.

Trump’s appeal late Monday came shortly before he’s due to file a response to the lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who alleges Trump defamed her when he said she was lying about her claims that he kissed and groped her. The first status hearing is set for Wednesday.

Trump is seeking to reverse a May 17 ruling from a lower appeal court that rejected his request to put the case on hold. That ruling opened the door for Zervos to seek extensive documents in the case.

Her lawyer has already requested outtakes from The Apprentice and records from a Beverly Hills hotel about Trump’s stay – as well as a possible deposition of Trump. Zervos has also asked for any documents from the presidential campaign about other women who claimed Trump harassed them.

Trump also faces a May 29 deadline to respond to Zervos’s subpoena seeking documents concerning “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.” At least 19 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct – claims the president has repeatedly denied.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter in March rejected Trump’s request to throw out Zervos’s lawsuit, writing “No one is above the law.”

Zervos, a contender on The Apprentice in 2005, sued Trump in January 2017 for defamation for saying she lied when she said he “ambushed” her on more than one occasion starting in 2007, kissing her, touching her breast and pressing his genitals against her.

Trump has called the lawsuit politically motivated, saying Zervos can’t hold him liable for engaging in political speech that’s protected by the First Amendment. He has said she continued to attempt to contact him and seek employment even after he made the alleged unwanted sexual advances – and only turned against him after he failed to accept an invitation to her restaurant.

The case is Zervos v. Trump, 150522/2017, New York Supreme Court, New York County.