Last October, shortly after the Access Hollywood tape became news, former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos accused Donald Trump of kissing her and grabbing her breast during a meeting in his office that took place in 2007. Trump called those accusations “totally false” and in January of this year, attorney Gloria Allred sued Trump for defamation claiming his denial was a lie. Now jump forward 11 months to today when Trump’s private lawyer Marc Kasowitz was in a New York courtroom arguing that the case should be dismissed. From the ABC News:
Marc Kasowitz, a lawyer for the president, spoke during oral arguments in New York Supreme Court this afternoon, saying the lawsuit brought by Summer Zervos would impede the ability of the president to do his job. An attorney for Zervos, Marian Wong, said the person holding the office of president is not above the law. The hearing was adjourned without any immediate decision as the judge took both attorneys’ arguments under advisement…
Kasowitz said his motion to dismiss Zervos’ defamation claim “has nothing to do with putting anyone above the law.” He said it’s about “protecting the ability of the president to do his constitutionally-mandated job.”
Kasowitz added that he believes the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan has no jurisdiction over the president while he is in office.
“State court can’t exercise any control over the president under any circumstances,” Kasowitz told Judge Jennifer Schechter.
The LA Times notes that the arguments made by Kasowitz today are the same ones Bill Clinton in the late-90s. Also similar, the potential pitfalls should Trump be forced to give a deposition under oath:
Being required to testify under oath could be particularly dangerous for Trump, given his history of saying things that are untrue, said Naomi Mezey, a Georgetown University law professor.
“For those people who are interested in this case as a path to impeachment, the chances of perjury in a Trump case are possibly greater than in a Clinton case,” Mezey said. “Testifying in a lawsuit takes a huge amount of discipline. If there’s one characteristic that seems absent from the Trump personality, it’s verbal discipline.”
In a twist of history, Kasowitz has invoked the same legal argument that attorneys for Clinton did 20 years ago, when he was accused of sexual harassment by Jones — that a sitting president is immune from lawsuits regarding his conduct before he took office.
Bill Clinton eventually lost his battle to shield himself from a lawsuit while in office. In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled he was not immune from a civil suit. His deposition in the Paula Jones lawsuit (everyone remembers Clinton’s parsing of the word “is”) eventually became the grounds for his impeachment, so the potential danger of a case like this is real. That’s especially true when Democrats are already eagerly pushing for impeachment.
Judge Jennifer Schecter hasn’t issued a decision based on today’s hearing yet but if she agrees to let this case go forward, you can count on this becoming the basis of a new round of speculation about President Trump’s imminent downfall.
This PBS News Hour clip covers the developments today.