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Summer Zervos accused Trump of sexual assault — now she’s suing him for calling her a liar

Gloria Allred Holds News Conference With New Accuser v. Donald Trump
Summer Zervos at her first press conference with Gloria Allred in October 2016.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

More than a dozen women accused President-elect Donald Trump of sexual assault during his presidential campaign. He reacted by calling them liars and threatening to sue them. Now one of them, Summer Zervos, is suing Trump herself.

Zervos, represented by Gloria Allred, a feminist attorney with a knack for the spotlight, is suing Trump for defamation, alleging that by calling her and his other accusers liars, he exposed her to threats from his supporters and damaged her reputation.

Her lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning, guarantees that the accusations of sexual assault that dogged Trump during the campaign — particularly after the release of a secret recording from 2005 that captured him bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent — won’t simply disappear once he’s in office.

Zervos accused Trump of kissing and groping her when she wanted to talk business

At a press conference with Allred in October, Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice in 2005, said that Trump made unwelcome sexual advances to her twice in 2007. She accused him of kissing her on the lips when she met with him to discuss job opportunities. Then, Zervos said, when she agreed to go to dinner with him, Trump had her taken to a private bungalow instead of the restaurant, where she says he kissed her, grabbed her breasts, and thrust his genitals against her.

This dovetails with Trump’s own description of his behavior from the secret recording made backstage at Access Hollywood in 2005: “Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy.”

But Trump denied Zervos’s accusation, saying in a statement in October that he never “met her in a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.” He went on to attack his accusers more broadly, saying they were describing “made-up events that never happened” with “phony stories.” He promised in an October 22 speech meant to be about his prospective first 100 days in office that “all of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Zervos’s lawsuit argues that Trump was lying when he called her a liar, and that his attacks on his accusers exposed them to “threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage.”

“Trump knowingly, intentionally, and maliciously threw each and every one of these women under the bus with conscious disregard for the impact that his repeatedly calling them liars would have on their lives and reputations,” the lawsuit reads, according to Allred.

Trump — who was very litigious as a businessman, frequently suing as well as being sued himself — is going into the Oval Office dogged by an unprecedented amount of legal trouble. Two lawsuits over restaurants in his DC hotel could be headed for trial, and Trump was deposed in one of the suits last week.

If Zervos’s lawsuit proceeds, the president-elect could end up answering questions under oath about whether he sexually assaulted her and other women. Zervos has one powerful piece of evidence on her side: Trump’s admission, from the 2005 Access Hollywood tape, that he routinely kissed women without their consent.

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