Attorneys for President Donald Trump are citing former President Bill Clinton's infamous sexual harassment case in an effort to stop a one time contestant of The Apprentice from suing him for allegedly lying about groping her in the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007.
According to NPR, Trump's attorneys argue that as president, he is largely immune from dealing with civil lawsuits. However, when Clinton used that reasoning in 1997 in an effort to stop the sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the chief executive is not immune from responding to a civil suit about his private behaviour.
Jones, an Arkansas state employee, alleged that Clinton sexually harassed her in a Little Rock hotel room when he was the governor of Arkansas. The Supreme Court ruled Clinton could be forced to testify under oath, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Despite Clinton's failure to use the argument, Trump's attorneys believe it will be useful in the suit brought on by Zervos. She claims she was "ambushed by Mr Trump on more than one occasion" and "subjected to unwanted sexual touching" in incidents in New York and Los Angeles.
She came out publicly with the allegations after the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasted about grabbing women without their consent. Zervos sued Trump in New York just days before his 21 January inauguration, claiming he defamed her when he called her allegations "totally false" and "100% fabricated".
Trump's lawyers filed a legal memorandum on Monday (27 March) arguing he was allowed to delay the proceedings due to his "exceptionally busy schedule particularly during his first 100 days in office". The legal memo notes that the Clinton suit was filed in a federal court in Arkansas and the Zervos suit was filed in a New York state court, but did not cite any other differences, the Times reported.
"President Trump intends to file a motion to dismiss or stay this action until he leaves office on the grounds that the United States Constitution, including the Supremacy Clause, immunises President Trump from being sued in this action while he is in office. Moreover, as in Clinton vs Jones, the public interest mandates that the immunity issue be resolved before proceeding further," the memo states.
Zervos' lawyer, Gloria Allred, said that Trump is not shielded from the defamation lawsuit. "The US Supreme Court addressed this legal immunity issue in Clinton vs Jones and determined unanimously that no man is above the law and that includes the president of the United States," Allred said in a statement.
The 1997 case against Clinton ultimately led to the revelation about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The ensuing scandal prompted the House of Representatives to impeach Clinton in 1998 for allegedly lying under oath.