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,”
.. 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.
In his letter, Lieberman cited a case in which even statements that contained some amount of opinion were found to be defamatory when they claimed a public official had been unethical, and wrote that Scaramucci “has never been charged nor found to have committed any ethical violation. . .”.. Scaramucci, a 1986 graduate of the university, was appointed to a five-year term on the board in 2016... Scaramucci did not respond immediately to a request for comment Monday, but he responded publicly on Twitter, saying, “All I need is an apology and correction. Get the facts right. Defamation is not unflattering coverage. It’s defamation.”He also wrote, “I asked for an apology. Plain and simple. In our country defamation comes with its consequences.”
.. “Sending a graduate student a letter accusing him of something two days before Thanksgiving and demanding a response within five days is clearly mean-spirited,” Rose said. “The ACLU of Massachusetts is not going to allow Mr. Caballero or anyone who’s a journalist to be bullied into silence. There’s a long history in this country of trying to use defamation law to silence critics.”
.. Frederick M. Lawrence, the secretary and chief executive of the Phi Beta Kappa society, who is a lecturer at Georgetown Law, said, “The Supreme Court has said when a public figure is involved, defamation requires that the reporting was done with knowledge of falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth. The burden of proof for a plaintiff who is a public figure in a defamation suit is very, very stiff.”
Moore denies everything — but without specifically denying much of anything. In one interview, he said that while in his 30s he did not “generally” date teenage girls. He added that he cannot “remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” How weaselly does all of this sound?
.. Having Moore in the Senate would probably mean more grief for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) than losing the seat to Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.
.. Moore pulled this off by positioning himself as the self-anointed voice of Christian grievance and resentment. “Populist” is too neutral a description. Moore is really a tribal leader, claiming that his followers are the only true Americans — while disqualifying his opponents as illegitimate.
.. The problem with tribalism is that it is absolute. In Rwanda in 1994, you were either identified as Tutsi or as Hutu; there was no in-between. For Moore, you are either among the good people or among the evil.
.. Moore’s philosophy is properly seen as Manichaean, not Christian; it has no room for universal love. The fact that most of his supporters, thus far, are sticking with him — enough to cow the state Republican Party into sticking with him, too — means he has convinced many Alabamians that child molestation is a lesser sin ..
.. Successful demagogues can use tribal enmities to blind their followers to such moral and logical contradictions. Some of Moore’s followers have told reporters they believe all the accusers are lying for partisan political reasons, which seems unlikely given what we know about the women’s politics; most describe themselves as conservative and several said they voted for President Trump.
Some Moore supporters charge that the women are seeking publicity, which is ridiculous; reporters sought the victims out and convinced them to tell their stories, and the women must have had some idea of the kind of vicious attacks that would follow.
.. Moore uses his angry Christianity as a tool of self-aggrandizement. He uses the trust and passion of the Alabamians he defrauds to sully the reputations of women who bravely testify to his allegedly vile and creepy behavior. He rages about filing lawsuits, but don’t hold your breath. Lawyers for potential defendants can’t wait to see what the discovery process might unearth.
.. He can be defeated — but only if Alabamians decide that honor, integrity and morality are more important than tribe
The longtime judge surely knows that he has no case against The Post; that he’d have to prove the newspaper knowingly published falsehoods or proceeded with reckless disregard to the truth
.. When former Fox News chief Roger Ailes first came under fire in 2016 for sexual harassment, he attempted to deny the allegations against him. An internal review corroborated the stories of the women.
.. O’Reilly, we learned last week, once had a contract stipulating that he couldn’t be fired for sexual harassment unless it was proven in court.
.. On the other hand, he has used his own wealth to silence his accusers via non-disclosure agreements and that clever contractual stipulation.
.. “This is everybody’s No. 1 fear — facing a defamation suit.”
.. Moore & Co. know what they’re doing. They’re attempting to intimidate the reporters and the accusers who threaten to further diminish their reputations. If they further alienate their followers from the U.S. media in the process, well, that’s just the price of good crisis communications.