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Donald Trump has had a very bad day in court today.
First, the former Celebrity Apprentice host failed this morning in his latest attempt to keep his long-desired tax returns out of the hands of a New York Grand Jury and Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. Now, Trump has be sued for defamation by E. Jean Carroll over the now defendant’s vehement and vile denials of the columnist and ex-SNL writer’s allegations earlier this year that the once property developer raped her in the mid-1990s.
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“Nobody in this nation is above the law,” proclaims the jury seeking complaint filed Monday in New York Supreme Court, the same jurisdiction where Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial is set to start next year. “Nobody is entitled to conceal acts of sexual assault behind a wall of defamatory falsehoods and deflections,” the 28-page filing that seeks a retraction from Trump plus unspecified compensatory and punitive damages (read it here). “The rape of a woman is a violent crime; compounding that crime with acts of malicious libel is abhorrent. Yet that is what Defendant Donald J. Trump did to Plaintiff E. Jean Carroll.”
Unable to pursue Trump in court over the alleged assault in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in late 1995 or early 1996 because of the statute of limitations on such an attack has expired, Carroll and her main lawyer Roberta Kaplan (who is now representing Amber Heard against Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation suit launched this March) are going after POTUS for his reaction to the initial claims.
“When Carroll’s account was published, Trump lashed out with a series of false and defamatory statements,” the detailed complaint says. “He denied the rape. But there was more: he also denied ever having met Carroll or even knowing who she was. Through express statements and deliberate implications, he accused Carroll of lying about the rape in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party, and make money. He also deliberately implied that she had falsely accused other men of rape. For good measure, he insulted her physical appearance.”
“Each of these statements was false,” the suit states. “Each of them was defamatory. Trump knew that these statements were false; at a bare minimum, he acted with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity.”
The White House was almost as quick and cutting as its much accused occupant in response today.
“Let me get this straight – Ms. Carroll is suing the President for defending himself against false allegations?” declared White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement emailed to Deadline.
“I guess since the book did not make any money she’s trying to get paid another way,” the double duty White House Communications Director also said, noting Carroll’s What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal that was published this year soon after the Trump claims were first made public. “The story she used to try and sell her trash book never happened, period. Her version of events is not even feasible if you’ve ever tried on clothing in a dressing room of a crowded department store. The lawsuit is frivolous and the story is a fraud – just like the author.”
What is factual, not frivolous is that Trump denied the claims and ever having met Carroll, even when he was presented with a photo of the two of them together from about 20 years ago. In what has become typical when called into question on almost anything, Trump went way out of bounds. Widely condemned for both its boorishness as well as stupidity, Trump’s kneejerk reaction was “I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?”
Today Carroll herself took a higher road, not that that’s hard with Trump.
“I am filing this lawsuit for every woman who’s been pinched, prodded, cornered, felt-up, pushed against a wall, grabbed, groped, assaulted, and has spoken up only to be shamed, demeaned, disgraced, passed over for promotion, fired, and forgotten,” the Elle journalist asserted. “While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than twenty years ago, I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so.”
“It’s for every woman who can’t speak up because she’ll lose the job she needs to support her three kids. No person in this country should be above the law – including the President,” Carroll concluded.
Facing numerous accusations of assault or inappropriate conduct over the years, Trump is currently not doing so great up against one defamation suit he has been battling for the past two years.
A contestant on Season 5 of the Trump-hosted NBC series The Apprentice, Summer Zervos just before the 2016 election accused then-GOP presidential candidate Trump of trying to kiss her repeatedly at a NYC meeting and then grabbing her breasts, kissing her and “thrust his genitals” at her in 2007 in a bungalow at Beverly Hills Hotel, where she’d gone to talk to the reality TV host about a job. The statute of limitations on such misconduct charges has long expired for Zervos too and then likely would have been the legal end of it. But after Zervos went public in the closing days of the race against Hilary Clinton, Trump’s caustic comments that claims were “total fiction” and “all false stuff” gave the matter a new life.
In her January 2017-filed complaint, Zervos took the perspective that Trump had caused the lawsuit by calling her a liar to the world. Subsequent media appearances saw Zervos also claim Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood comments and his subsequent denial of claims from several women who claimed he assaulted them led her to speak out.
In the discovery phase in NY Supreme Court, the Zervos case and looming trial may prove a good road map for where Carroll’s case is headed, and it ain’t Mar-a-Lago, if you know what I mean?
Deadline’s Ted Johnson contributed to this report.