By Jan Kruger/Getty Images.
Between Thursday, November 23, and Sunday, November 26, every single initial report from the White House press pool went something like this: “Trump’s motorcade arrived at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.” Arrival and playing times varied; on Thursday, Donald Trump arrived at the club around 11 A.M. and departed at 3:30; on Friday, he was there starting around 9:15 A.M. in the company of pro golfers Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. On Saturday, Trump was at the club for nearly six hours, and on Sunday, he clocked in at about four and a half hours, from 9:30 A.M. until around 2 P.M.
Trump’s communications team has gone to great lengths to disguise the more than 50 trips he has taken to golf courses he owns. On the day before Thanksgiving, for instance, the White House insisted that the president had “a full schedule of meetings and phone calls” in addition to course time. But the claim failed to disguise the fact that the man who tweeted about Barack Obama’s golfing expeditions almost 30 separate times is giving him a run for his money—a point that one of Trump’s alleged sexual assault victims recently made amidst the president’s attempts to dismiss her lawsuit.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice who claimed that Trump groped her and kissed her without consent under the pretext of discussing her career, filed a lawsuit against the president in January for defamation. Zervos and her lawyer are arguing that Trump’s dismissal of Zervos’s claims—“To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago. . . . In fact, Ms. Zervos continued to contact me for help, e-mailing my office on April 14 of this year asking that I visit her restaurant in California,” he wrote in a statement after Zervos came forward—amounts to defamation. “Mr. Trump knew that his false, disparaging statements would be heard and read by people around the world, and that these women, including Summer Zervos, would be subjected to threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage,” the suit reads.
In recent days, Trump’s legal team has attempted to get Zervos’s case thrown out, reportedly arguing that the case would take up so much of the president’s time that it would amount to “controlling” his schedule, which would prevent him from fulfilling the official duties that occupy him “24/7.” For most presidents, that argument would hold; in the case of Trump, it was low-hanging fruit. “It’s certainly true that a president has to do his job 24 hours a day. He’s also a human being who does not do his job 24 hours a day,” Zervos’s attorney Mariann Wang countered. “We can certainly ensure that we take a deposition down at Mar-a-Lago in between his playing golf.”
During his presidency, Bill Clinton became ensnared in a similar case filed by Paula Jones, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the president was not immune to federal civil lawsuits over events that took place before he assumed office. But the question of whether states can oversee cases that involve a sitting president has yet to be answered, and will determine whether Zervos’s case moves forward. Beyond the unfortunate optics of Zervos’s claims re-emerging amid a national reckoning with sexual assault, reigniting questions about Trump’s numerous accusers, the president has a vested interest in making sure Zervos’s case never makes it to court: should the trial go ahead, it would give legal grounds for the 75 other lawsuits filed against him before he took office to proceed.