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In the recent campaign for president, Donald Trump was heard on the Access Hollywood tapes bragging about grabbing women and asserting he could do this because he was a star. In a debate, he denied that he had ever acted on those words. A number of women came forward, however, saying that he had engaged in inappropriate conduct with them.
I represent four of them: Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice; Karena Virginia; Jessica Drake; and Temple Taggart, a former Miss Utah in the Miss Universe pageant, which was owned by Trump. (A number of other women also have contacted me but decided to maintain their privacy.)
Mr. Trump’s response to the accusers’ claims was to call all of these women “liars.” He threatened to sue them after the election. That created a heavy backlash from his supporters against the accusers. Often when women make allegations against rich, famous and powerful men, some people refuse to believe them. In this case, many supporters of Mr. Trump had a vested interest in discrediting the accusers. Some of the accusers were attacked by fake news stories containing outright lies and fake Twitter accounts. The lie always gets much more attention than the response to the lie. Truth was really the biggest casualty in this presidential campaign.
Trump is no longer just a star. He’s president-elect. It is important he begin his term with a clean slate in reference to the accusers. I challenged him to retract his statement that these women are “liars,” and I challenged him to state that he would not sue the accusers that he threatened to sue. That would undo some of the damage that he has inflicted on them. Mr. Trump now has the opportunity to act presidential. Will he seize that opportunity? To date, he has not; he has not yet accepted my challenge.
If he does act on his threat and sue, his accusers have the right to sue him for defamation: He has called them “liars”; truth is a defense. In a lawsuit, Mr. Trump would have to sit for a deposition while I ask him many questions he may not wish to answer but will be required to answer. It’s going to be a far-reaching deposition. If that is how he wants to spend his time as the president of the United States, that is up to him. The Republican Congress could decide that it will pass a statute that would not allow civil cases to proceed against Mr. Trump while he’s in office, but that would cause its own controversy.
What will we do if he does not retract? In the third debate, Chris Wallace asked Mr. Trump if he would concede if he lost the election. His response: “I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?” Even if Mr. Trump does not retract, even if he does not sue any of the accusers, it is possible someone will sue him first. We will just have to wait and see. “I will tell you at the time, Mr. Trump. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?”
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