Trump faces deadline for questioning in defamation suit

Politics

FILE – In this July 24, 2021 file photo, Former President Donald Trump speaks on a variety of topics to supporters at a Turning Point Action gathering in Phoenix. Former President Donald Trump has chosen a favored candidate in his bid to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney, one of his most vocal critics. Trump is planning to endorse Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman as she prepares to launch a primary campaign against Cheney, the most prominent member of Congress to vote for Trump’s second impeachment. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump now has a Dec. 23 deadline to undergo questioning in a former “Apprentice” contestant’s defamation lawsuit over what he said in denying her sexual assault allegations, a court said Monday.

Lawyers for Trump and his accuser, Summer Zervos, have two weeks to try to nail down specific dates for depositions, a legal term for out-of-court, pretrial questioning under oath. Zervos’ also is due by Dec. 23, according to the timeframe set during a Manhattan court teleconference.

Then-President Trump was weeks away from a January 2020 deposition deadline when he won a delay to ask the New York’s top court to consider holding off the case entirely until he was out of office. He argued that sitting presidents couldn’t be sued in state courts.

After he left office this year, the state high court — called the Court of Appeals — said the question was moot. The case returned to a Manhattan trial court for both sides to continue gathering evidence.

Zervos, a California restaurateur, appeared on “The Apprentice” in 2006. Trump was then the host.

A decade later, he was the Republican presidential nominee, and she was among a series of women who publicly accused him of sexual assaults or harassment years before. Zervos said he subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping during what she thought would be career-advice meetings in 2007 at his New York office and at a California hotel where he was staying.

He denied her allegations, retweeted a message that called her claims “a hoax” and described the women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment as “liars” trying to hurt his 2016 campaign’s chances.

Zervos then sued, saying he hurt her reputation. She is seeking a retraction, an apology and unspecified damages.

Former Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz called Zervos’ claims meritless and said Trump’s statements were true and protected by free speech rights.

Trump’s new lawyer, Alina Habba, said Monday she plans to expand the former president’s response to the case.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly as Zervos has.

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