NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump wants New York’s highest court to delay a defamation suit filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant who accused him of unwanted groping and kissing.
Trump’s lawyers filed notice late Monday that they’re asking the state Court of Appeals to freeze Summer Zervos’ suit while a lower appellate court considers Trump’s request to dismiss it or postpone it until after his presidency.
The president has denied Zervos’ claims, and his lawyers formally did so in a filing late Tuesday. They also argue that he can’t be sued in a state court while he’s president.
Zervos’ lawyer, Mariann Wang, said she looked forward “to proving that his denials are baseless.”
She also noted that Trump has lost bids so far to delay the case.
“And for good reason,” Wang added in a statement. “No one is above the law.”
Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared in 2006 on Trump’s former reality show, “The Apprentice.” She says he made unwelcome advances when she sought career advice in 2007.
Zervos was among more than a dozen women who came forward late in the 2016 presidential race to say Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted them.
Trump denied all the claims, saying they were “100 percent fabricated” and “totally false” and his accusers were “liars.” He specifically contested Zervos’ allegations in a statement and retweeted a message that included her photo and described her claims as a “hoax.”
Zervos’ suit argues Trump defamed her by calling her a liar. She says his words hurt her reputation, harmed her business and led to threats against her.
She’s seeking a retraction, an apology and compensatory and punitive damages.
Trump’s attorneys have said his remarks were “non-defamatory opinions” protected by the First Amendment. In Tuesday’s filing, they also said his statements were true.
A Manhattan judge ruled in March that the case could go forward. Last week, a mid-level appeals court turned down Trump’s bid to halt information-gathering in the case while appeals judges weigh his argument that a private citizen can’t sue a sitting president in a state court.
Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz said last week there was “no valid reason” to reject the request.
Zervos’ lawyers have issued subpoenas seeking a range of information about Trump’s behavior toward women, including any Trump campaign documents concerning any woman who accused him of inappropriate touching and any unaired “Apprentice” footage that might feature Trump discussing female contestants in a sexual or inappropriate way.
By JENNIFER PELTZ
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