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Trump Making ‘Last Ditch’ Effort to Skip Deposition, Zervos Says

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 10/30/2021 Erik Larson
Former President Trump Holds Rally In Perry, Georgia © Photographer: Sean Rayford/Getty Images Former President Trump Holds Rally In Perry, Georgia

(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump is making a “last ditch” effort to avoid being deposed in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant who claims he sexually assaulted her, a judge was told.

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Trump, facing a Dec. 23 deadline to sit for a deposition in the suit by Summer Zervos, is seeking court permission to amend his response to the 2017 complaint and add counterclaims. The request is Trump’s latest delay tactic, Zervos said in a filing Friday in New York state court in Manhattan.

“Trump has successfully delayed prosecution of this lawsuit for almost five years and should not be permitted to continue to do so,” Zervos said.

Zervos, who claims Trump assaulted her in a Beverly Hills hotel room more than a decade ago, sued him for defamation after he called her a liar just before the 2016 election. Trump stalled the suit in office by arguing a sitting president can’t be sued in state court. A trial judge rejected that defense four years ago, but New York’s highest court waited until March to dismiss his appeal, after Trump left office and his argument became moot.

“President Trump is not only prepared but looks forward to the opportunity to clear his name in the event of a deposition,” Alina Habba, Trump’s lawyer, said in an email. 

Trump’s legal woes have been mounting, with criminal charges filed against his company and its former chief financial officer by New York authorities and a widening legal dispute with his niece, Mary Trump, who has accused him of fraud. Earlier this month, Trump was forced to sit for a deposition in a 2015 suit by protesters who claim they were assaulted by his security staff.

In Friday’s filing with Judge Jennifer Schecter, Zervos pointed to the court’s ruling four years ago that said “there is absolutely no authority for dismissing or staying a civil action related purely to unofficial conduct” just because the defendant the U.S. president. 

“No one is above the law,” Schecter wrote at the time.

Trump “refused to accept that fundamental principle, seeking to prevent resolution of this litigation through repeated appeals, motions for reconsideration, and requests to stay -- until he lost the 2020 election to President Biden and his immunity argument became moot,” Zervos said. “This motion is nothing more than a continuation of this pattern of delay.”

Trump filed counterclaims against Zervos earlier this month, alleging her lawsuit violated New York law because it was filed in bad faith.

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