But by turning personal and branding the women liars, Trump has perhaps unwittingly played into a cutting-edge strategy in the legal pursuit of sexual misconduct — claims of defamation such as those used against comedian Bill Cosby and in a lesser-known New York case, argued by two lawyers who are now representing Zervos.
.. Trump could be called to testify, with the unwelcome specter of a former president looming over him: It was Bill Clinton’s misleading sworn testimony — not the repeated allegations of sexual harassment against him — that eventually led to his impeachment.
“It’s almost a train you can’t stop going down the tracks,” said Joseph Cammarata, who represented Paula Jones against Clinton and, more recently, represented seven Cosby accusers in a defamation suit. “It opens him up to have to answer questions about sexual relations, other relationships, what might have been said, to open up your whole life.”
.. The use of defamation to litigate an underlying allegation of sexual misconduct addresses other challenges: Often, the statute of limitations is up before accusations come to light; in some instances, the he-said-she-said nature of the testimony makes accusations hard to prove.
.. Zervos is represented by Gloria Allred and her New York based co-counsel, Mariann Meier Wang, who declined to make Zervos available for questions. Allred says she represents Zervos pro bono on her website, where she appeals for donations to pay Zervos’s other legal expenses and says excess contributions will go to rape crisis centers.
.. In news conferences, she has been asked whether targets could include outtakes from “The Apprentice,” which might show how Trump treated female contestants such as Zervos.
.. After Zervos made her allegations, Trump posted a statement on his campaign website: “To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.” He decried what he called “made up events,” “100% fabricated and made-up charges,” saying in the last presidential debate that the women were put forward by the campaign of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, or motivated by the desire for “ten minutes of fame,” according to Zervos’s complaint.
.. “After he called me a liar I was threatened, bullied and saw my business targeted,”
.. Trump’s attorneys argue that the president is immune and that the comments he made were political opinion and therefore “squarely protected by the First Amendment.”
.. In 1997, a Supreme Court ruling made it possible for a sitting president to be sued for private actions that occurred before he took office. Trump’s attorneys are arguing that Clinton v. Jones, which applies to federal litigation, does not apply in state courts.
.. “That is where [Trump’s attorneys] are putting their linchpin,”
.. If she is deemed a private citizen, Zervos simply would have to show that Trump was negligent toward the truth. If she is a public figure, the bar is far higher.
.. “She would have to prove he knew [what he said] was false or had reckless disregard for the truth,”
.. Bill Pruitt, who worked on “The Apprentice,” tweeted, “As a producer on seasons 1 & 2 of #theApprentice I assure you: when it comes to the #trumptapes there are far worse.”
.. If, on the other hand, the suit does proceed, it could encourage more litigation against a president who entered office with an unusual array of lawsuits in his wake.
And if Zervos wins, her victory could embolden other accusers.
“There are 10 or 11 other women waiting in the wings,” Rabin said.