Defamation Lawsuit Against Trump Proceeds After Removal from Office

Donald J. Trump is no stranger to lawsuits. He has been sued for everything from alleged shady business practices to alleged sexual assault and harassment, but while he was president, he claimed, as have other Presidents, he was protected from legal action as long as he was in office. Two courts had ruled against that argument, and he had appealed their decision to the New York State Court of Appeals, but before that court could decide on the case, Mr. Trump was voted out of office.

While Mr. Trump is currently facing multiple lawsuits across the country, the case in question is a defamation lawsuit filed in New York by Summer Zevos. Ms. Zevos was a contestant on Mr. Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice”, and she alleges Mr. Trump groped and forcibly kissed her against her will during what she had been led to believe would be a business meeting.

Ms. Zevos came forward with her accusations of sexual assault in 2016 when Mr. Trump was running for president. He denied the accusations and called her a liar, at which point she sued him for defamation in 2017. At that point, he was already in office, and that’s when he claimed the office protected him from legal action. The two sides argued over whether holding the office actually protected the defendant from legal action, with the courts taking Ms. Zevos’s side in the debate and Mr. Trump’s legal team appealing those decisions.

As soon as Mr. Trump left office in January 2021, Ms. Zevos, along with her attorney, started the process of requesting the court to dismiss Mr. Trump’s motion to appeal the lower court’s decision that being in office did not protect Mr. Trump from legal action. Since he has been voted out of office, the argument of his attorneys has become a moot point and the court granted Ms. Zevos’s motion to dismiss his appeal and allow the defamation lawsuit to proceed.

Now that Mr. Trump is out of office the court will not let him halt the defamation lawsuit, and he will likely be compelled to testify perhaps even at a trial if the parties fail to reach a settlement agreement before the case reaches that point. Mr. Trump could be made to testify about both his time in New York with Ms. Zevos during and after her time as a contestant on “The Apprentice”, as well as his time on the campaign trail in 2016 when he allegedly defamed her by calling her a liar and denying her allegations of sexual assault.

Mr. Trump might also be made to testify about allegations made by other women as the lawyers in this case and others will try to claim such testimony is relevant.

Jean Carroll is another woman who has made allegations that Mr. Trump raped her in the 1990s. When he denied the allegations and claimed that it attacked her character, she sued him for defamation in 2019. That case is still waiting for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether a team of attorneys from the Justice Department can represent Mr. Trump instead of his private legal defense team. That motion has not yet been dropped, and it still needs to be determined whether the government will defend him.

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