Like President Bill Clinton before him, Trump could face legal peril if he must testify about his sexual history in the suit filed by Zervos and another by Stephanie Clifford, the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had consensual sex with Trump in 2006 and was physically threatened in 2011 to stay silent.
Zervos wants Trump to identify any woman who ever alleged that he subjected them to unwanted sexual touching or other inappropriate behavior — as well as any details on payoffs to those women. Zervos, who met with Trump in hopes of securing a job after her Apprentice appearance in 2005, is one of at least 19 women who have come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct... Zervos said Trump’s lawyers have refused to provide information or documents about other women and asked a state judge in Manhattan in Tuesday’s filing to order the president’s attorneys to cooperate.“Most of these women described defendant assaulting them in a virtually identical manner to what Ms. Zervos was forced to endure: without each woman’s consent, defendant would proceed to kiss them on the mouth and grope them, including by grabbing their breasts, buttocks, or vaginas,” according to the filing.
Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation.
- Trump’s private company is contending with civil suits digging into its businesswith foreign governments and with looming state inquiries into its tax practices.
- Trump’s 2016 campaign is under scrutiny by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose investigation into Russian interference has already led to guilty pleas by his campaign chairman and four advisers.
- Trump’s inaugural committee has been probed by Mueller for illegal foreign donations, a topic that the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman plans to further investigate next year.
.. However, there has been one immediate impact on a president accustomed to dictating the country’s news cycles but who now struggles to keep up with them: Trump has been forced to spend his political capital — and that of his party — on his defense.
.. Trump has denied he directed Cohen to break the law by buying the silence of former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels. He also said Cohen, as his lawyer, bore responsibility for any campaign finance violations.
“I never directed him to do anything wrong,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday. “Whatever he did, he did on his own.”
.. Prosecutors also revealed Wednesday they had struck a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, the company that produces the National Enquirer tabloid, for its role in the scheme.
The company admitted it had helped pay off one of Trump’s accusers during the campaign. It said it had done so in “cooperation, consultation, and concert with” one or more members of Trump’s campaign, according to court filings.
.. It is unclear whether prosecutors will pursue charges against campaign or Trump Organization officials as part of the case.
But at the White House, advisers have fretted that this case — and not Mueller’s — could be the biggest threat to Trump’s presidency. House Democrats have already indicated the campaign-finance allegations could be potential fodder for impeachment proceedings.
.. The nearly $107 million donated to Trump’s inaugural committee has drawn the attention of Mueller, who has probed whether illegal foreign contributions went to help put on the festivities.
The special counsel already referred one such case to federal prosecutors in Washington. In late August, an American political consultant, W. Samuel Patten, admitted steering $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician to the inaugural committee through a straw donor.
Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
.. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that federal prosecutors in New York are examining whether the inaugural committee misspent funds. The Washington Post has not independently confirmed that report.
Officials with the committee, which was chaired by Trump’s friend Tom Barrack, said they were in full compliance “with all applicable laws and disclosure obligations” and have not received any records requests from prosecutors.
.. Trump also faces a pair of civil lawsuits alleging he has violated the Constitution by doing business with foreign and state governments while in office.
.. “What we want to do is be able to tie the flow of money from foreign and domestic sovereigns into Donald Trump’s pocketbook,” said Karl A. Racine (D), the D.C. attorney general. He called the emoluments clauses “our country’s first corruption law.”
.. The plaintiffs are seeking to have Trump barred from doing business with governments. But the more immediate threat for Trump and his company is the legal discovery process, in which the plaintiffs are seeking documents detailing his foreign customers, how much they paid — and how much wound up in the president’s pocket.
New York state inquiries
.. In New York, where Trump’s business is based, incoming Attorney General Letitia James (D) is preparing to launch several investigations into aspects of his company.
.. She said she wanted to look into whether Trump had violated the emoluments clause by doing business with foreign governments in New York and examine allegations detailed by the New York Times that Trump’s company engaged in questionable tax practices for decades.
New York state’s tax agency has also said it is considering an investigation into the company’s tax practices.
.. Earlier this year, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed suit against Trump and his three eldest children, alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a case spurred by reporting by The Post in 2016.
.. Trump is accused of violating several state charity laws, including using his charity’s money to pay off legal settlements for his for-profit businesses. He used the foundation to buy a portrait of himself that was hung up at one of his resorts. Trump also allegedly allowed his presidential campaign to dictate the charity’s giving in 2016 — despite laws that bar charities from participating in campaigns.
.. Meanwhile, a defamation suit against Trump by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos has also quietly advanced through the New York courts.
.. A judge has allowed Zervos to seek discovery — including possibly deposing the president — as the two sides wait for a panel of New York appellate judges to rule on Trump’s latest move to block the lawsuit.
Journalist Sees ‘Almost No Daylight’ Between Fox News And White House Agendas: Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman says the president and Fox News host Sean Hannity “speak almost daily, after Hannity’s show, sometimes before, and sometimes for up to an hour a day.”
.. Bill Shine for 20 years was Roger Ailes’ his closest deputy and executive. And Bill Shine has been named in numerous lawsuits that he had direct knowledge of sexual harassment claims filed by Fox News women against Roger Ailes and other senior employees at the network. And these credible allegations are that he not only covered up these allegations, but in some cases enabled them.
And one of the most disturbing that comes to mind is a story that I reported in 2016 for New York magazine about the case of former Fox News Booker Laurie Luhn, who for years had a sexually and psychologically abusive relationship with Roger Ailes. And as Roger Ailes’ deputy, it was Bill Shine’s job to keep tabs on Laurie Luhn and prevent her from going public with these allegations that Ailes had abused her and blackmailed her into a sexual relationship. And I reported it. And it was – perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the story was that Bill Shine arranged for her to be committed to a psychiatric institution when she had a nervous breakdown because Roger Ailes was worried about her going public.
.. And Laurie Luhn alleged in our interviews that Bill Shine was also involved in monitoring her emails and her communications – again, very cult-like to prevent her from speaking to outsiders. So circling back to your question, it’s – to me, it’s mind boggling that someone with this amount of baggage who was too toxic for an institution like Fox News, which has sort of become a shorthand for a toxic company, would become one of the highest-ranking members of the federal government.
GROSS: Were there other employees of former employees of Fox News that alleged that Bill Shine monitored their emails?
SHERMAN: Well, I can’t speak for other employees. I don’t have other instances. I mean, I do know that it was company practice that all company emails were recorded, and Roger Ailes could request the legal department to look at them. So it’s highly likely that Bill Shine was looking at other emails. And I knew – I have direct reporting that indicates Bill Shine participated in Roger Ailes’ use of private investigators to track reporters, including myself, who are writing critically about Fox News.v
.. GROSS: The head of the group Judicial Watch is calling for prosecutors to investigate Bill Shine’s role in the sexual harassment cover-up at Fox News. What have you heard about that?
.. federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York opened an investigation into whether Roger Ailes and other Fox News executives used public company money – because Fox News is owned by 21st Century Fox. It’s a publicly-traded company. And prosecutors in the FBI wanted to know whether they used public company money to help pay off women into these private settlements and use private investigators and other dirty tricks to cover up this widespread culture of harassment.
.. it’s impossible to have a conversation about Bill Shine and Donald Trump without really exploring Sean Hannity’s role in becoming the de facto chief of staff of this White House and probably the most powerful political commentator in recent memory.
.. Sean Hannity was almost left for dead during the Obama years. His ratings were in decline. His show was moved from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., a less desirable hour.
.. Stormy Daniels, Summer Zervos – those suits are making their way through the courts.
.. I’ve been really struck by the parallels between the cultures of the two organizations. And in many ways, Bill Shine has gone from working for a megalomaniacal boss in Roger Ailes to going to working for the current president of the United States, Donald Trump. And they are very similar personalities.
.. I think Bill Shine has a lot to offer Donald Trump because of his experience helping Roger Ailes navigate a cascade of sexual harassment allegations, and not only allegations against Roger Ailes but other high-profile members at Fox News. So I think Bill Shine has a tool kit. He knows how these scandals have been weathered in the past. And it seems to reason that he can be part of Donald Trump’s war room when he has to deal with these in the future.
.. GROSS: At the same time, you can argue that if President Trump is accused of sexual harassment, as he has been, it’s not a good look to hire somebody who is accused of enabling a climate of sexual harassment.
SHERMAN: I think that’s true if you’re applying kind of the norms and logic that have governed politicians in the past. I think with Donald Trump, it’s an entirely different playbook. And I think a way of example of looking at that is looking at Donald Trump’s support for Judge Roy Moore
.. And the truth is that people around the president say that his only way to survive the sexual harassment allegations is to double down himself – to actually run towards the scandal, not away from it. And we’re actually seeing that playing out in recent days with his unabashed support for Congressman Jim Jordan who has been credibly accused of at least being aware of sexual abuse at Ohio State University and not doing anything to address it.
characteristics that got him to the White House in the first place: a reliance on gut and guile, disregard for the experts and a flair for the dramatic. Expect more of the same, perhaps much more.
.. He is surrounding himself with advisers more likely to reinforce his own instincts rather than those who would attempt to nudge him gently in directions he prefers not to go. He will still bend at times but will feel freer to trust himself more than others.
.. For all the talk of Trump as a politician with no fixed ideology and no coherent views on issues, the one constant has been his insistence that the United States has been snookered on one trade deal after another and his resolve to take action.
.. As telling, however, was the decision by Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general, not to join the president’s defense team.
.. The coming phase of Trump’s presidency will last through the November midterm elections. Between now and then, Congress will take no significant action, or so go the predictions.
.. Summer Zervos, a contestant on “The Apprentice” who accuses Trump of sexual misconduct. All are suing for the right to tell their stories.
.. There is no New Trump emerging here as this next phase begins. If anything, it is the reemergence of the old Trump, the pre-presidential Trump, who plays by his own rules and tries to rewrite the old ones he doesn’t like.
I’ve been looking for somebody to admire in the White House. Should it be Don McGahn?
Up to you. He was formerly a member of the Federal Election Commission who hated campaign-finance reform so much he once tore up the F.E.C. rule book at a meeting and threw the shredded chunks at a Democrat. He lobbied Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He was an enabler on that immigrant travel ban.
I don’t understand how these busy lawyers have so much time to appear on TV.
Totally part of the job. Trump just hired Joe diGenova, who’s currently famous for having argued on Fox that a secret cabal of F.B.I. agents created the whole Russia investigation to “frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”
For a while it looked as if Kasowitz was fading away. But now he’s back! In court arguing that as a sitting president, Trump cannot be sued by a woman who says he molested her during his “Apprentice” days.
That would be Stormy Daniels?
Oh gosh no. This is Summer Zervos, who says Trump came on with an unnerving series of gropes, and then when she resisted claimed “that he did not believe that she had ever known love or been in love.”
.. So the worse the team gets, the better for the country?
Right now, Stormy’s lawyer is making mincemeat of Trump’s legal representation. For the sake of argument, let’s say the special prosecutor has assembled at least as strong a team as the stripper did.
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.