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On Friday, a New York judge ruled that Donald Trump doesn’t have to turn over documents related to allegations of illicit sexual misconduct towards nearly two dozen women.
The decision is a setback for Summer Zervos, the former Apprentice contestant who claims she was sexually assaulted by Trump at a hotel in 2007 and is now suing the president for defamation after he called the story a “hoax.”
New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter agrees with Trump’s attorney that this particular discovery demand amounted to inadmissible propensity evidence, meaning it didn’t go directly to her claims but rather was an improper testing of his character.
However, the judge did order Trump to respond to questions from Zervos’ attorneys on how he responded to sexual misconduct allegations during the 2016 campaign after the infamous Access Hollywood tape came out. Zervos, assuming a judge agrees she’s a public figure, will have to demonstrate actual malice (knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth) in order to prevail on her defamation claim. The judge agrees with the plaintiff that forcing Trump to identify those involved in his response to sexual allegations, and forcing him to identify further context around the response, would go to the element of actual malice.
The hearing occurred a week after a New York appellate court heard oral arguments on Trump’s claim that, under the Constitution, he is immune from state lawsuits while serving as president of the country.
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