Attorneys for a former “Apprentice” contestant who is suing President Donald Trump for defamation wrote in a new filing that information on the president’s other accusers could shed light into his state of mind and intent when he allegedly lied about sexually assaulting her more than a decade ago.
Summer Zervos, the former contestant, and her attorneys are asking Trump to produce information that would support his claims that each woman who accused him of sexual misconduct during the 2016 presidential campaign “lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” as he said.
Zervos is represented by Mariann Meier Wang, a founding partner of Cuti Hecker Wang in Manhattan.
Trump is represented by Marc Kasowitz, a founding partner of Kasowitz Benson Torres. He did not immediately comment on the filing Friday.
The lawsuit is the result of public statements made by Trump against Zervos and his other accusers two years ago in which he said the women fabricated their stories. Zervos, specifically, alleged Trump kissed her on the lips when they met at Trump Tower. She also claimed Trump made unwanted advances toward her during a private meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, including kissing and touching.
Trump denied the allegations in a statement on his campaign website after Zervos spoke publicly about the claims in October 2016.
“To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago,” Trump said. “That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I’ve conducted my life.”
Zervos wants to compel Trump’s attorneys to produce information about his other accusers to prove the opposite. They argued that Trump’s actions with Zervos are part of a larger pattern of how he has treated women in the past.
“In other words, where a party’s state of mind is relevant, as it is here, evidence of his prior acts that bears on his intent or knowledge is admissible,” Wang wrote in the recent filing, which is a reply brief on their motion from August.
While the statement in October was directed at Zervos, Trump said during campaign events that his other accusers had made up their stories as well.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign, total fabrication,” Trump said at a rally in 2016. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
Those lawsuits have not come to fruition. Instead, Zervos filed her suit against Trump days before his inauguration in 2017. She claimed that her restaurant in California suffered after Trump publicly accused her of lying. She’s seeking damages and has demanded that Trump retract his statements about her.
Her attorneys want to use his past public statements against him in the trial, which is why they want his attorneys to produce any documents they might have related to each accuser. The more Zervos and her attorneys can show Trump’s statements were not justified by any tangible proof, the stronger their case could be against his claims about her account.
“The truth or falsity of defendant’s statements about his other accusers plainly is probative of whether he intentionally made false statements about plaintiff, because if defendant consciously lied more than a dozen times when he spoke about other accusers, a jury could reasonably conclude that he intentionally lied when, during the same time period, he falsely denigrated plaintiff and denied assaulting her,” Wang wrote.
Trump’s attorneys argued against the motion in a filing last month, calling it a “fishing expedition.” They said information on Trump’s other accusers is not directly relevant to her lawsuit against the president.
“Plaintiff’s fishing expedition is simply a masked attempt to obtain inadmissible propensity-related evidence that, if defendant maliciously made statements in the past (which he did not), then he did so in this case,” Kasowitz wrote. “Indeed, under New York law, plaintiff is not permitted to try to prove that defendant allegedly acted with malice in making the statements at issue here by reference to statements that do not defame her.”
Kasowitz also noted that virtually none of Trump’s other accusers have brought similar legal actions against him since the election.
Trump’s attorneys have also argued that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Clinton v. Jones prevents Trump from being sued in state court, and subsequently undermines their motion to compel the president to produce information on his other accusers.
Wang wrote in her filing that Trump’s attorneys have ignored a decision by the trial court in that case that she argued supports their motion.
“Indeed, in continuing to rely upon Clinton v. Jones, defendant ignores that the trial court in that case granted motions to compel requiring President Clinton to respond to interrogatories regarding his sexual activities with other women and allowing the plaintiff to depose non-parties about their sexual activities with President Clinton,” Wang wrote.
Trump’s attorneys made the same argument earlier this year before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter, who said in a decision that Trump is decidedly not immune from the lawsuit. The Court of Appeals also decided not to hear Trump’s appeal to grant a stay in the case.
Trump’s attorneys are hoping an appellate court reverses Schecter’s ruling. The parties agreed last month to a stipulation that provides for Trump to give written answers to deposition questions.
The parties are expected to meet later this month with Schecter for a conference on compliance by Trump and his attorneys in the lawsuit.