By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump asked a New York state trial judge to put on hold a defamation lawsuit by Elle magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape, saying a successful appeal in a separate defamation case could shield him from both lawsuits.
The president has been asking the New York State Court of Appeals to block Summer Zervos, a 2005 contestant on his reality television show “The Apprentice,” from suing him for defamation while he is president, for calling her a liar after she accused him of kissing and groping her.
Trump, who has denied Zervos and Carroll’s accusations, said in a Tuesday night court filing that the judge in Carroll’s case would have no jurisdiction if the appeals court decided that Zervos’ lawsuit must wait until after he has left the White House.
Lawyers for Trump, who is seeking reelection in November, also said that delaying Carroll’s case served the public interest by removing an “unnecessary distraction” from the president’s public duties, in addition to being “constitutionally required.”
Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Carroll, in a statement called Trump’s request “hardly a surprise,” although the president has participated in other lawsuits since entering the White House.
“It would be fundamentally unfair to allow him to pick and choose which cases he wants to participate in,” she said.
Carroll is suing Trump for denying he raped her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in midtown Manhattan, which she said occurred between the fall of 1995 and spring of 1996. In her complaint, Carroll said that Trump lied about attacking her, and “smeared her integrity, honesty, and dignity” by concocting a “swarm of related lies” to explain why she would make the incident up.
Last week, she asked Trump to provide a DNA sample to see if he had come into contact with the dress she said she wore.
Trump has denied knowing Carroll and denied the alleged encounter.
The president has argued in a variety of litigation that he is immune from lawsuits and investigations, including criminal proceedings, while in office.
In the Zervos case, Trump is appealing a ruling last March by a mid-level state appeals court in Manhattan that the U.S. Constitution did not deprive state courts of jurisdiction, and that Trump was “not above the law.”
Courts have not decided the merits of either lawsuit.
The case is Carroll v. Trump, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 160694/2019.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)