See where the cases stand for three women suing Trump and his associates
ABC News(NEW YORK) — Attorneys representing President Donald Trump, his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and a publishing company with ties to the president are fending off legal challenges stemming from various allegations made against Trump and his associates by a trio of women.
One of the women has accused the president of defamation in relation to alleged sexual misconduct. The other two are suing in connection to so-called hush agreements about their alleged consensual relations with Trump.
Here’s a round-up of the latest developments in the three cases.
Summer Zervos vs. Donald Trump
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” alleges in her lawsuit – filed three days before Trump’s inauguration – that then-candidate Trump repeatedly defamed her after she came forward in October 2016 with allegations that Trump groped and kissed her without her consent in a California hotel room in 2007.
Now lawyers for President Trump have officially filed a notice of appeal, challenging a ruling last month by a New York state judge that allowed Zervos’ defamation claim against the President to proceed.
In a court filing on Sunday, the president’s lawyers restated many of the arguments made in their original motion to dismiss the case, among them that the president is immune to civil suits in state court and that the statements made by Trump during the campaign were “non-defamatory opinions” protected by the First Amendment.
New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter, on March 20, rejected those arguments, writing that, “No one is above the law.”
Trump’s appeal is likely to be heard in September, according to a court filing on Monday. Meanwhile, Trump’s attorneys are also trying to stop any pre-trial discovery, filing a separate motion to halt the lower court proceedings while the appeals court takes up the case.
The President and the Trump campaign currently face a May 21st deadline to respond to a subpoena from Zervos’ attorneys seeking documents concerning Zervos and all the other women who publicly accused Trump of sexually inappropriate behavior. Attorneys for Zervos have also indicated that they intend to pursue a deposition of the President.
If the court grants the president’s motion for a stay pending the outcome of the appeal, all of that would be put on hold.
In another development, women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred last week withdrew from the case. Allred had been representing Zervos since she came forward with her allegations against Trump before the election. Trump’s attorneys had alleged in court filings that Allred was using the Zervos lawsuit “for political purposes” and to “distract the President in order to obstruct his presidency.”
Allred said in a statement that her withdrawal had “nothing to do with the merits of her case against President Trump.”
Zervos continues to be represented by New York based attorney, Mariann Meier Wang, and she said in a statement that the decision to part ways with Allred was for “purely for personal reasons.”
Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) vs. Donald Trump and Essential Consultants, LLC
Stephanie Clifford – the adult film-star known as Stormy Daniels – sued Trump and a shell company formed by the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, last month seeking to invalidate a non-disclosure agreement she signed just eleven days before the 2016 election. Clifford – who received a payment of $130,000 in exchange for her silence about the alleged affair – alleges the contract is void because, among other things, it lacks a signature from Trump.
Cohen has stated publicly that he paid the settlement out of his personal funds, and that he was not reimbursed by either the Trump Organization or the campaign. The president – through representatives – has denied the allegations of an affair with Clifford and any knowledge of the payout.
Less than two weeks after she went public on “60 Minutes” with allegations of a sexual encounter in 2006 with then-businessman Trump, attorneys for the President have formally petitioned a federal court late Monday to send Clifford’s case to a private arbitration proceeding.
In a motion filed in federal court in California, an attorney for Cohen’s company argued that Clifford, by signing the agreement and accepting the money, had “knowingly and voluntarily agreed” to resolve all disputes arising from the contract in arbitration, not in court. An attorney for President Trump filed a brief motion concurring with those arguments.
Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s attorney, responded to the latest court filing on Twitter, vowing to “vigorously oppose” the efforts by Trump and Cohen to have the case decided in private arbitration, hidden from public view. “This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people,” Avenatti tweeted.
Last week, a judge rejected as premature Avenatti’s motion for an expedited jury trial and depositions of Cohen and Trump. That ruling, however, does not preclude Avenatti renewing those motions in the near future.
Karen McDougal vs. American Media, Inc.
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal filed a lawsuit in California state court last month alleging that American Media, Inc. (the publisher of the National Enquirer) secretly coordinated with her then-attorney and Trump’s personal lawyer to purchase her story of an alleged affair between her and Trump with the intent of burying it in advance of the election, a practice known in the industry as “catch and kill.” McDougal is now seeking to break free from the agreement.
The company is asking a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Karen McDougal, who alleged that she had a ten-month affair with Donald Trump, beginning in 2006. In new court filings, the publisher of the National Enquirer claims that its decision not to publish the story is protected by its First Amendment rights.
AMI asserts in its court filings that McDougal is “advancing the novel and radical proposition that once a media company has a story about a candidate, it must publish that story or else be in violation of election law.” The company denies that it is attempting to silence her and points out that, pursuant to an amendment to her deal, she is permitted to respond to legitimate press inquiries. As part of their agreement with McDougal, AMI paid her $150,000, featured her on a cover of a magazine, and published 19 of her articles in four separate AMI publications.
McDougal acknowledged in an interview with CNN last month that she viewed the deal, at the time, as a “win-win situation” for her, and she admitted she was fully aware that her story of an alleged affair would not be published.
But McDougal contends in her lawsuit that she had only recently become aware through media reports that AMI allegedly “worked secretly” with Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as well as her own attorney at the time, to buy her silence after Trump became the Republican presidential nominee.
McDougal’s new lawyer, Peter Stris, responded to the AMI filing on Twitter, alleging that “the tabloid went to great lengths to silence her and others, and they are now attempting to silence her again with the absurd claim that their own free speech was violated.”
McDougal’s former attorney, Keith Davidson, has not responded to ABC News requests for comment on McDougal’s allegations.
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