Trump's legal woes mount

NEW YORK • First, porn star Stormy Daniels. Now, former The Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos (above) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

United States President Donald Trump faced legal challenges from two more women on Tuesday as a defamation lawsuit brought by Ms Zervos moved forward and McDougal sued to undo a confidentiality agreement to bury a story about an affair with Mr Trump.

The developments increased legal pressure on Mr Trump, who during and after the 2016 presidential campaign was accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women - allegations he denied.

A New York state judge on Tuesday denied a bid by Mr Trump to toss a defamation lawsuit by Ms Zervos, a former contestant on the NBC television show The Apprentice, raising the prospect that he might have to answer questions about his behaviour in court.

Justice Jennifer Schecter rejected Mr Trump's claim that he was immune from being sued, finding "absolutely no authority" to dismiss litigation related "purely to unofficial conduct" solely because he occupied the White House. "No one is above the law," the judge wrote in her ruling.

McDougal filed her lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer, whose head David Pecker has described Mr Trump as a "personal friend".

She said the media company paid her US$150,000 in 2016 for the rights to her story that she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006 and 2007 and then never published it.

McDougal, 46, said her lawyer at the time, Mr Keith Davidson, secretly negotiated with Mr Michael Cohen, Mr Trump's personal lawyer, and that Mr Cohen was in consultations with American Media on the agreement.

Mr Cohen has acknowledged arranging to pay to silence Daniels, 39, who filed a lawsuit earlier this month.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Trump, 71, has denied all accusations of misconduct and called his accusers "liars".

Ms Zervos, 41, met Mr Trump when she became a contestant on The Apprentice in 2005. She said he kissed her against her will at a 2007 meeting in his New York office and later groped her in a Beverly Hills hotel at a meeting about a possible job.

She said his denials amounted to defamation and that being branded a "liar" caused diners to stay away from her restaurant in California.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Trump's legal woes mount'. Print Edition | Subscribe