Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit agains the president is back on track after the Supreme Court ruled in Trump v. Vance that “absolute presidential immunity” is really not a thing.
Last week, New York Supreme Court Justice Verna L. Saunders “construe(d) the holding in Vance applicable to all state court proceedings in which a sitting president is involved” and lifted the stay on discovery imposed pending resolution of the president’s immunity to discovery in a suit filed by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who also sued for defamation after she accused the president of sexual assault and he called her a liar.
Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan of Kaplan, Hecker & Fink immediately fired off a letter to Trump’s counsel Marc Kasowitz demanding to schedule discovery, including both depositions and retrieval of a DNA sample from the president.
After Carroll accused Trump of raping her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman’s years ago, Trump denied having ever met the advice columnist, said she was “not my type,” and accused her of fabricating the accusation to sell her book. Carroll sued for defamation, pointing to a photo of the two of them together, and producing a dress she claims to have worn on the day in question and never since. Testing revealed the presence of DNA from an unidentified male person on the dress, and now she’d like a sample from the president to see if there’s a match.
In fact, Carroll’s lawyer has generously offered to be flexible on the date of deposition, postponing it until after the president hands over his genetic material for comparison.
“We propose that Defendant first provide us with a DNA sample, so that our experts can have an opportunity to test it before we take his deposition,” Kaplan wrote.
She was also mindful of the president’s very busy schedule, now that he’s back from three days of golfing in New Jersey. AHEM.
“President Clinton made time to testify under oath about allegations of sexual harassment, and so President Trump can surely make time to testify about allegations of sexual assault and defamation,” Kaplan continued. “His testimony about what he did (and what he said) will strike to the very heart of the case and offer evidence that cannot be obtained from any other sources. He is obviously required to provide it.”
Remember when the nation was regaled with a painfully detailed and likely false description of President Clinton’s manhood in the Paula Jones case? Remember when Clinton was forced to submit DNA to match with the stain on Monica Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress?
Karma’s a bitch.
Trump’s lawyers, who have used every trick in the book to drag this out, including ducking process like a child support deadbeat, will no doubt argue that the Vance decision applies only to criminal process, not civil discovery. It’s not clear whether that position will get any traction with the appellate court, particularly in light of the Jones precedent. But digging their heels in on the DNA test — which would surely take the wind out of Carroll’s sails if there was no match — is hardly a ringing endorsement of their client’s innocence.
Kasowitz Letter, August 10, 2020
Elizabeth Dye (@5DollarFeminist) lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.