Donald Trump faces the prospect of being sued for sexual assault even if he were to be elected president, as per legal experts citing a precedent set by the Bill Clinton-Paula Jones case.
The Supreme Court ruling in Clinton v. Jones, which established that a sitting president does not have immunity from lawsuits for actions before taking office, has direct implications for the ongoing legal battle involving Trump and former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll.
Carroll, who first publicly accused Trump of attacking her in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s, was awarded $5 million in damages in May 2023, concluding that Trump sexually assaulted and defamed her. The defamation lawsuit stems from Trump's remarks while president and after the jury's verdict, where he allegedly dismissed Carroll's claims as "fake" and labeled her a "whack job."
Trump's legal woes are compounded by a recent decision of a federal judge, rejecting his bid to add a new expert witness in the trial addressing how much he owes Carroll for defamation. Judge Lewis Kaplan criticized Trump for his delay in proposing an expert witness, saying, "He has made his own bed and now must lie in it." The trial is scheduled for January 16, 2024.
Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, pointed out that the 1997 Supreme Court case established crucial legal precedents. In Clinton v. Jones, Paula Jones sued Bill Clinton for sexual advances made during his governorship. This case led to the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal and Clinton's admission of "inappropriate intimate physical contact" with Lewinsky, despite his initial denial of any sexual relations.
The ongoing case against Trump involves both state and federal legal actions. Carroll is also seeking another $10 million in compensation and "substantially more" in punitive damages for Trump's alleged defamatory remarks. The case underscores the legal challenges Trump may face, irrespective of his political ambitions or status.
As the legal proceedings unfold, they highlight the broader implications of the Supreme Court's decision in Clinton v. Jones, emphasizing that even the highest office in the country does not provide immunity from civil lawsuits pertaining to personal conduct before holding office. Trump's defense strategy, and the evolution of this high-profile case, will be closely monitored in the coming months, given its significant legal and political ramifications.