- President Trump has threatened to sue his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, for remarks he made in a new book.
- Pursuing Bannon for defamation weakens Trump’s core argument in a separate defamation suit against him – that he can’t be sued while in office.
- That suit, brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” could force Trump to address sexual harassment claims against him.
President Trump’s threat to sue his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, could backfire by weakening his core defense in a separate defamation case against him brought by a woman who claims he sexually harassed her.
Trump is pursuing Bannon for remarks he made in a book published Friday, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by journalist Michael Wolff.
Charles Harder, a lawyer for the president, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bannon saying in part that his comments “give rise to numerous legal claims including defamation by libel and slander, and breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with our clients.”
Pursuing a defamation case is a risky move for Trump. It weakens his lawyers’ core argument in a separate defamation case against the president brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice.”
Trump’s legal team argued in a hearing last month that Zervos’ suit should be thrown out or delayed until after his term on the grounds that a sitting president can’t be sued in state court. Part of their reasoning is that a trial could distract Trump from his official business as president.
Under that reasoning, a lawsuit against Bannon would also be considered a distraction, legal experts told Bloomberg.
“Should Trump bring a claim against Wolff, experts said, he may have to explain why he can sue the author but can’t be sued by Zervos,” Bloomberg noted.
Zervos claimed in late 2016 that Trump “very aggressively” kissed her, groped her breasts, and began “thrusting” his genitals at her in a 2007 meeting at The Beverly Hills Hotel. Her defamation suit against Trump claims that the president damaged her reputation when he subsequently called her a liar.
If the suit moves forward, it could force Trump to testify on allegations that he sexually harassed more than a dozen women.