David v. Goliath: A Presumed Victim Sues Trump for Defamation

Once again, the women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred takes on her favorite role as “David vs Goliath”, she told the press on Tuesday in Los Angeles. She has been doing that “for 40 years”,  whether it was against Michael Jackson, Roman Polanski or Bill Cosby, but this time, Goliath is the soon-to-be President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. “The most powerful individual on this planet”, she commented.

Allred is suing him for defamation in the name of her client Summer Zervos, a woman from Orange County who, in October, accused the billionnaire of “unwanted sexual touching”. At her press conference, Gloria Allred made a list of all the terms Trump used to portray Zervos as a liar : “totally made-up nonsense”, “100% fabricated and made-up charges”, “totally false”, “phoney stories”, etc.

These expressions were indeed Donald Trump’s response  after the former contestant of the show ‘The Apprentice’ made her first public accusations against the then-Republican nominee. But the woman, one of many with such allegations, did not give up after the election and asked that the new President-elect retract his statements of calling her a liar, and that instead he apologizes to her. Since “he failed in doing so, there was only one option left”, said Allred.

“No one is above the law”, she stated, “that is the beauty of our system of justice”.

And justice is all the presumed victim is looking for, she assured. Summer Zervos, who says Trump kissed her on the mouth and “groped” her without her consent ten years ago, is looking for “no financial compensation”. The lawsuit “seeks to make Donald Trump accountable” for the “threats of violence, economic harm and reputational damage” done to her and the other women who came forward with similar stories.

“He has left me no alternative other than to sue him in order to vindicate my reputation”, she said. “I would still be willing to dismiss my case (…) if he will retract his false and defamatory statements about me and acknowledge that I told the truth about him”.

To back up her credibility, Zervos took a lie detector test (a polygraph), the attorney added,  which “she passed”. “Truth matters, women matter”, she insisted before announcing that she and her client will be attending the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, the day after the inauguration.

“Why now?” asked a journalist about the timing of a lawsuit filed in New York just three days before Donald Trump is sworn in as the next President of the United States. “Why not now?”, simply replied Allred.

The 75 year-old lawyer, who started defending victims after being sexually assaulted herself when she was 25, mentioned the 1997 Supreme Court ruling in its case Clinton v. Jones to support the fact that a president in office (or soon to be) has no immunity when it comes to “personal, private conduct”. More than 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton was indeed prosecuted for sexual harassment against an Arkansas government employee, Paula Jones, a case that led to the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Lewinsky was a witness in this case).

This scandal was mainly propelled by the fact that Bill Clinton had lied while testifying under oath. This led to a procedure of impeachment in the House of Representatives, eventually dismissed by the Senate.

So, theorically, could this lawsuit lead to Trump’s impeachment, I asked ? The Congress will have “a very important decision to make” if Donald Trump does not accept to testify truthfully, replied Gloria Allred. Which is, one might think, the most likely scenario.

In any case, Allred, unusually surrounded at her press conference by her two partners at the firm (as backups), “fully expects that Mr. Trump will use every means at his disposal to try to delay this case and avoid having to give his testimony under oath”. But she, also, seems quite determined to use all means to make the battle happen in a court of law, not on a Twitter account “in a bedroom at night”, as she put it.

Summer Zervos walks out of the press conference where she and her attorney Gloria Allred announced that they were suing Donald Trump © photo Laureen Ortiz

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