President Trump is citing Bill Clinton's famous sexual harassment battle in his effort to block a California woman's lawsuit claiming he lied about groping her in the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007.
Problem is, Clinton lost that bid for legal immunity when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1997 that the chief executive is not shielded from responding to a civil suit regarding his private behavior.
Paula Jones, an Arkansas state employee, had sued Clinton for alleged sexual harassment during an encounter in a Little Rock hotel room when he was the state's governor. The justices said President Clinton could be forced to answer questions under oath.
But this week, Trump's lawyers cited the Clinton vs. Jones case in a legal filing in New York and contended that it "immunizes President Trump from being sued in this action while he is in office."
At issue is a lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a onetime contestant on Trump's TV show "The Apprentice." She alleged that she had been "ambushed by Mr. Trump on more than one occasion" and "subjected to unwanted sexual touching." She cited incidents in New York and Los Angeles.
After the October release of a 2005 "Access Hollywood" audio tape in which Trump spoke about grabbing women against their will, Zervos and several other women described unwanted encounters with Trump.
Zervos sued Trump in January in a New York court, alleging she was defamed when he called her report "totally false" and "100% fabricated."
Trump's lawyers filed a legal memorandum on Monday arguing that the president was entitled to delay further proceedings in the case, citing his "exceptionally busy schedule particularly during his first 100 days in office."
The Paula Jones suit alleging sexual harassment was filed in a federal court in Arkansas. The Zervos suit alleging defamation was filed in a New York state court. The legal memo filed Monday cites no other difference and argues that the Constitution protects Trump, even though it did not shield Clinton.
"President Trump intends to file a motion to dismiss or stay this action until he leaves office on the grounds that the United States Constitution, including the Supremacy Clause, immunizes President Trump from being sued in this action while he is in office. Moreover, as in Clinton vs. Jones, the public interest mandates that the immunity issue be resolved before proceeding further."
The legal memo was filed by New York attorney Marc Kasowitz. The Washington Post reported on the filing Tuesday.
Gloria Allred, the Los Angeles lawyer representing Zervos, issued a statement saying Trump is not shielded from her claim. "The U.S. Supreme Court addressed this legal immunity issue in Clinton vs. Jones and determined unanimously that no man is above the law and that includes the president of the United States."
The high court's decision in Clinton's case gave attorneys for Jones the opportunity to question the president about a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Her name was revealed a few days later, and the scandal led to House Republicans voting in favor of impeaching the president for alleging lying under oath.