Attorneys for Donald Trump made a case for immunity in a court filing last week. They assert that the president should be immune from the defamation lawsuit against him based on the supremacy clause of the US constitution. They contend that it would distract the president from the performance of his duties which could be detrimental to the president, and the nation as a whole.

The lawsuit

A defamation lawsuit was filed by Summer Zervos, a contestant on The Apprentice. In October of 2016, she claimed that Donald Trump kissed and groped her in a hotel room in 2007.

Trump's denial of the accusations was included in several tweets calling the charges false, made up and nonsense. When a request for a retraction of his statements was made by Summer's lawyer, Gloria Allred, there was no response which led to the filing of the lawsuit just days before inauguration. The lawsuit claims that Trump was aware that the statements he made would result in "threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage" to his accusers. Allred also said that Zervos was willing to end the lawsuit if he retracted his statements and acknowledge that she was being truthful.

The case for immunity

The lawyer for Summer Zervos said that the president is not immune from their defamation lawsuit.

Citing the Supreme Court ruling in the 1997 Clinton V Jones case, Allard said that the Supreme court had addressed the issue of legal immunity and had made a unanimous determination that no one including the President of the United States was above the law. The president's attorneys argue made the case that

Legal precedents

There are legal precedents that speak to the issue of presidential immunity.

As far back as 1962, President John F. Kennedy settled a lawsuit against him for his role in a traffic accident that occurred before he became president. The judge had ruled at that time that he could be sued like any other person. More recently, in the 1990s President Clinton was sued for his alleged actions before he took office. Because of the supreme court ruling in the Bill Clinton case, the president is not automatically shielded from civil lawsuits according to Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor.