Trump could be forced to testify on sexual-harassment allegations — and if he lies he could be impeached

Summer Zervos

  • Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of sexually harassing her in 2007, is suing him for defamation because he called her and other accusers liars.
  • Trump’s lawyers will argue in a New York court on Tuesday that the lawsuit should be thrown out because he is a sitting president.
  • But former President Bill Clinton was deposed while he was a sitting president over allegations of sexual harassment by Paula Jones. Later, when he was found to have lied under oath, he was impeached by the House of Representatives.
  • “People are going to find out who this guy really is,” Mindy McGillivray, one of Trump’s accusers, told Business Insider.

While everyone’s talking about special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Trump campaign’s communication with the Russian government, the president’s lawyers are preparing for an altogether different case.

On Tuesday, in a New York state Supreme Court hearing, they’re expected to try to have a defamation case against the president dismissed. If they fail, the president could be forced to testify on allegations that he sexually harassed more than a dozen women.

The suit was filed by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” who claimed last year that Trump “very aggressively” kissed her, groped her breasts, and began “thrusting” his genitals at her in a 2007 meeting at The Beverly Hills Hotel. Her claim is that Trump damaged her reputation when he called her a liar.

The hearing comes amid a torrent of scrutiny around sexual misconduct by powerful men in the US following bombshell revelations regarding years of alleged sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The allegations cost Weinstein his job and, subsequently, women have come forward with a variety of allegations against high-profile journalists, lawmakers, and executives.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to argue that the suit against him should be thrown out or delayed until after his term on the grounds that a sitting president can’t be sued in state court. Part of their reasoning is that a trial could distract Trump from his official business as president.

The experience of another US president — Bill Clinton — shows that this argument may not hold up. Clinton’s experience also shows how, if Trump lies under oath, he could be impeached.

Clinton v. Jones

US President Donald Trump

“The precedent is not on Trump’s side,” says Susan Low Bloch, a professor at Georgetown University’s law school and an expert in constitutional law.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1997, in Clinton v. Jones, that sitting presidents are not in fact immune from civil-law litigation over something that happened before they took office. The ruling specifically pertained to federal lawsuits. Trump’s lawyers say this case is different because it was filed in a state court.

Trump’s legal team is also expected to argue on Tuesday that the president’s statements referring to his accusers as “liars” amounted to political speech and should therefore be protected from legal action.

“All of the statements occurred on political forums — a campaign website, on Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, in a presidential debate, and at campaign rallies — where the listeners expect to hear public debate, taken as political opinion rather than a defamatory statement,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing last month.

This argument could be tough to win, unless Trump’s defense can prove that Zervos is a limited public figure, Bloch said.

Zervos’ lawyer, Gloria Allred, said Trump should have to defend what he said in court. Allred has also subpoenaed his campaign for all documents related to the many women who have accused him of sexual harassment.

“We believe that President Trump should be accountable for his statements,” she said in July. “No one enjoys a license to defame based on power, wealth or privilege.”

Zervos was one of 13 women who accused Trump last year of unwanted physical contact over a period spanning more than 30 years. Trump has denied Zervos’ claims, saying he “vaguely” remembers her and that he never met her at a hotel. He later called Zervos and his other accusers “liars” during several campaign appearances and on Twitter.

Zervos, through Allred, declined an interview. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Lying about Lewinsky


If the court decides the suit can move forward, Trump will likely be deposed, meaning he will have to give sworn statements concerning the allegations against him.

Former US President Bill Clinton faced a similar situation as a sitting president when he was sued by Paula Jones, who had accused him of sexual harassment when he was the governor of Arkansas. As part of that suit, Clinton gave a sworn deposition in 1998 in which he denied a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton later admitted to the affair, after Lewinsky provided grand-jury testimony on her relationship with the president and produced evidence: a dress stained with semen matching Clinton’s DNA.

Kenneth Starr, an independent counsel at the time, concluded that Clinton committed perjury — an impeachable offense — when he denied the affair with Lewinsky. Starr submitted his findings to the US House of Representatives, which voted to impeach Clinton. But the Senate later acquitted him of all charges, and he remained in office.

Like Clinton, Trump could face impeachment if he lied under oath. In that case, it would ultimately be up to Congress to decide whether he was telling the truth.

Trump faces a litany of sexual-harassment allegations

More than a dozen women came forward before the presidential election last year accusing Trump of unwanted sexual advances.

Among them was Jessica Leeds, who said Trump groped her on a flight in the 1980s. She said he grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” she told The New York Times. “His hands were everywhere.”

Kristin Anderson said Trump slipped his hand up her skirt and touched her vagina through her underwear at a New York City nightclub in the early 1990s. Jill Harth said Trump pushed her against a wall, put his hand up her skirt, and tried to kiss her at a dinner in the early 1990s.

Mindy McGillivray said Trump grabbed her buttocks in 2003 when she was 23 years old and working at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s oceanfront resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Donald is over 6 feet tall and very intimidating,” McGillivray told Business Insider. “I was vulnerable — a young mother.”

Natasha Stoynoff said she was interviewing Trump in 2005, one year after his marriage to Melania, when he allegedly forced himself on her. “Within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat,” she wrote last year in People magazine.

Also in 2005, then 22-year-old Rachel Crooks said she introduced herself to Trump outside an elevator in Trump Tower in Manhattan and that he kissed her on the mouth.

These women and others all came forward following the release of an “Access Hollywood” videotape in which Trump bragged about being able to grab women “by the pussy.” Trump later downplayed the remarks as “locker-room talk” and denied all the allegations of sexual harassment. The New York Times reported this week that Trump has since suggested to lawmakers that it is not him on the tape, citing people who are close to the president or aware of his private conversations.

‘Totally phoney’

Trump also threatened to sue all his accusers.

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign — total fabrication,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in October 2016. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Trump hasn’t yet filed any suits against his accusers, but he still publicly maintains his innocence.

When asked about the Zervos subpoena in October, which demands all campaign communication regarding Trump’s accusers, Trump called it “fake news.”

“All I can say is it’s totally fake news, just fake,” he said. “It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later reaffirmed that the Trump administration’s official position is that all of Trump’s accusers are lying.

Trump accuser says the truth will come out

McGillivray, one of the women who said she was groped by Trump, says it’s the president who is lying.

She told Business Insider that she was terrified to talk publicly about the incident in 2003 when she says Trump grabbed her buttocks.

“I was a nervous wreck,” McGillivray said. “But I felt like this was a time to be courageous. The guy’s a liar and I wanted people to know that.”

McGillivray told her story to the Palm Beach Post in October, and said she subsequently became the target of a barrage of death threats online. She and her daughter fled their home in Florida for three weeks to escape the national attention.

Regardless of what happens with Zervos’ suit, McGillivray said she’s confident that Americans will ultimately find out the truth about the sexual-harassment allegations against Trump.

“People are going to find out who this guy really is,” she said.

SEE ALSO: 22 powerful men in politics and media accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of Harvey Weinstein

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Trump lawyer: Collusion is not a crime – The Hill

One of President Trump’s top lawyers told The New Yorker that it doesn’t matter if members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia as long as no crimes were committed.

“For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated,” Jay Sekulow said in an article published in the December issue of the magazine. “There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion.”

Trump’s attorney told the magazine on multiple occasions that collusion with Russia or another foreign power during a campaign is not illegal, and that no statute would be violated by the campaign working with the Russian government even if such an act is proven by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.


Mueller’s investigation has the authority to investigate any matters that come up in the course of investigating possible collusion between the campaign and Russia.

That includes possible obstruction of justice, which would be a crime.

Trump could be investigated for obstructing justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey earlier this year. He told reporters at the time that the Russia investigation was firmly in his mind when he did so.

Sekulow in the past has claimed that Mueller is not investigating the president himself, despite the scope of Mueller’s authority.

“Let me be clear here,” he said in June. “The president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction.”

Sekulow also denied in August that the president was considering firing Mueller, a move that Trump’s critics have speculated about for months.

“The president is not thinking about firing Robert Mueller,” Sekulow told Fox News. “So the speculation that’s out there is just incorrect.”

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Brock Turner appeals sexual assault conviction

Brock Turner mugshot

  • Brock Turner, who last year was found guilty of sexual assault and served a three-month sentence, is appealing his conviction.
  • Turner’s lawyers argued in their appeal filed Friday that the initial trial was “a detailed and lengthy set of lies.”
  • They are also hoping to overturn the lifetime requirement that Turner register as a sex offender.
  • Turner’s case became a flashpoint in the debate on campus sexual assault after an impassioned victim impact statement from the accuser went viral.

Brock Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer found guilty of sexual assault in California, has appealed his conviction after serving a sentence that many condemned as an example of how the justice system fails to take such crimes seriously enough.

Turner, then 19, was arrested in 2015 after two of his fellow students at the Northern California university saw him outside of a fraternity house on top of an unconscious woman. He was convicted of sexual assault the following year.

Turner’s lawyer, Eric Multhaup, said in papers filed on Friday in a California appeals court that the initial trial was “a detailed and lengthy set of lies.” He argued that a prosecutor in the trial incorrectly told jurors the sexual assault occurred behind a trash bin.

The woman Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting, was found near a garbage enclosure but not behind a trash bin, according to Turner’s appeal. Multhaup said that implying otherwise gave the impression Turner tried to hide his activities with the woman.

Turner’s case first shot into national and international prominence after an impassioned victim impact statement from his victim, known only as Emily Doe, went viral.

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” Doe read in court. “The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.”

The case prompted outrage after Turner was given a six-month sentence, of which he was released three months early for good behavior. He had to register as a sex offender in his home state of Ohio last year, after leaving Stanford.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky was vilified over the sentence, which critics argued was too lenient and demonstrated bias toward Turner, who as a white, male former student-athlete at Stanford shared a similar background to him. Persky faces a recall effort over the sentence.

Turner could face a longer prison sentence if convicted again

brock turner jail releaseThe appeal comes as a surprise because political leaders, local residents and social media users had criticized Turner’s sentence as too lenient, rather than too harsh.

The 172-page appeal requests that the conviction be overturned and that Turner receive a new trial. His lawyers are also hoping to overturn the lifetime requirement that Turner register as a sex offender.

But if Turner is convicted again, he could face a longer prison sentence.

In an email, Multhaup declined to comment beyond the court filing.

“Brock Turner received a fair trial and was justly convicted,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen told the San Jose Mercury News. “His conviction will be upheld.”

Turner’s appeal also took aim at Persky, saying he erred by not instructing jurors to consider charges less serious than sexual assault and by not allowing testimony from character witnesses.

A representative for Persky could not be reached for comment.

Persky, in a statement on a website to fight the recall effort, said in his former career as a prosecutor he saw how sexual assault could destroy victims’ lives.

“When I became a judge, my role changed — I am required to consider both sides,” Persky said in the statement. “California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders.”

In response to the Turner case, California lawmakers last year passed legislation to broaden the state’s legal definition of rape and mandate prison if the victim was unconscious.

SEE ALSO: Kate Steinle’s death at the hands of a Mexican national became a flashpoint in the immigration debate — here’s the story behind her killing

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