Donald Trump has declared April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, according to a proclamation on the White House website. He has done so in the midst of a sexual assault lawsuit that he is trying to get out of. He is not the first president to make this proclamation, but he has attempted to erase the former proclamations of his predecessors.
In 2009, President Obama declared April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. That proclamation has been removed from the White House website leaving an empty page saying, “Thank you for your interest in this subject.” The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that it was 2001, under the George W. Bush administration when Sexual Assault Awareness month was recognized nationally, but it was 2003 under this same administration when Congress made it official.
This proclamation of Donald Trump’s comes in the midst of a sexual assault lawsuit that he is trying to get out of. The New York Post reported last week that Summer Zervos, a former contestant of The Apprentice has filed a defamation suit, after her sexual assault complaints against Donald Trump were referred to as lies. Last week Donald Trump worked to derail that lawsuit by seeking immunity from it because he’s the president.
But in Donald Trump’s proclamation, he referred to prevention as this.
“Prevention means reducing the prevalence of sexual violence on our streets, in our homes, and in our schools and institutions.”
Trump also stated in his proclamation that he has instructed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create a “task force on crime reduction and public safety” that aims to reduce all crimes including sexual assault. Donald Trump has not created a sexual assault awareness and prevention task force specifically.
Before leaving the White House, Vice President Joe Biden was a champion for sexual assault awareness, particularly on college campuses, and reportedly worked to convince the Trump Administration to prioritize sexual assault matters reports Fortune Magazine.
Also in his proclamation, Donald Trump said the following.
“This includes supporting victims, preventing future abuse, and prosecuting offenders to the full extent of the law…..Together, we can and must protect our loved ones, families, campuses, and communities from the devastating and pervasive effects of sexual assault. In the face of sexual violence, we must commit to providing meaningful support and services for victims and survivors in the United States and around the world.”
But, as the Toronto Star reports, Trump has been accused of sexual assault by 12 women in the past year. He also did not support the alleged victims of those incidents, as he is asking America to do this month, and instead called them liars according to the Toronto Star. He’s also trying to get out of a lawsuit, filed by an alleged victim that is seeking support.
Summer Zervos is not asking for much. She is seeking $2900 in defamation damages and an apology.
The Toronto Star has recalled the now infamous 2005 Trump tapes where Donald Trump was boasting about how he kisses and gropes women without seeking consent.
— Tony Renner (@TonyRenner) March 31, 2017
It was a much different tone in Trump’s proclamation produced yesterday. The proclamation is a much different tone than the one he is asserting in the lawsuit filed against him by Summer Zervos.
The New York Post reports that last year, Summer Zervos accused the presidential candidate Donald Trump of groping her and “pressing his privates” against her when she appeared on The Apprentice in 2007. Donald Trump responded by saying she was simply seeking “ten minutes of fame.” Three days before Inauguration Day, Summer Zervos filed a lawsuit of defamation.
Attorney for Donald Trump, Marc Kasowitz, claims the intention of filing a motion to have the case dismissed, citing the “Supremacy Clause” that “immunizes the president from being sued in state court while in office.” This is what Marc Kasowitz alleges.
But the Supremacy Clause in Article VI Paragraph 2 of the Constitution actually does not use the word immunity. The Supremacy Clause states that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and that federal constitution and federal law takes precedence over state law and state constitutions. Donald Trump is trying to say in his response that his federal work takes precedence over a defamation suit.
Whether or not he is successful remains to be seen. The Supreme Court has already raised the issue and voted unanimously against granting President Bill Clinton immunity for similar charges.
Kasowitz is asking the Manhattan courts to address the matter of immunity before addressing Summer Zervos’ claims seeking $2,914 in damages and an apology from the president, reports the New York Post.
“This procedure is in accordance with a long line of U.S. Supreme Court cases that require the courts to show deference to the President and his schedule and that require immunity issues to be resolved first, because immunity does not just insulate a defendant from liability, but spares him or her from the burden of defending against a lawsuit in the first place.”
Attorney for Summer Zervos, renowned feminist Gloria Allred, does not believe the president gets immunity in this case. She says that in fact, the Supreme Court case of President Bill Clinton that Kasowitz is citing says the exact opposite of what Kasowitz suggests. That ruling, “determined unanimously that no man is above the law and that includes the President of the United States of America.” Gloria Allred also said the following.
“Summer seeks vindication of her rights and reputation for what her lawsuit alleges was personal misconduct by then-candidate Trump prior to his having been elected to the office of the President of the United States.”
The Bill Clinton ruling is no stranger to Donald Trump, or even members of his own Administration. In 1994, it was a lawyer named George Conway, who is married to Kellyanne Conway, who penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times against Bill Clinton saying that to seek immunity from a sexual assault claim “smacks of the privilege of a sovereign or an autocrat – not the president of a democratic republic.”
George Conway was writing about the case of Paula Corbin Jones v. William Jefferson Clinton. He also wrote the following, of a president seeking immunity from sexual assault cases, “this argument requires a huge stretch of the law.”
Kellyanne Conway’s husband George also said the following, referring to the legal precedent that immunity does not apply to presidents pertaining to acts committed outside of official duties of the president.
“In the 1982 case of Nixon vs. Fitzgerald, a bitterly divided Supreme Court recognized an absolute presidential immunity from damages liability for acts within the outer perimeter of official responsibility. Yet, even this is not enough to help Clinton. His alleged acts in the Jones case fall far outside his official duties – they took place before he was even elected.”
The same argument could be made for Summer Zervos, who is referring to actions taken in 2007. The Supreme Court agreed with George Conway, unanimously in the full Clinton v. Jones opinion.
“This reasoning [for immunity] provides no support for an immunity for unofficial conduct…Frequently our decisions have held that an official’s absolute immunity should extend only to acts in performance of particular functions of his office. Petitioner’s effort to construct an immunity from suit for unofficial acts grounded purely in the identify of his office is unsupported by precedent.”
The petitioner, in this case, was President Bill Clinton, was also alleging that his duties of the office would preclude him from attending to this legal matter. He also alleged that the legal matter would interfere with his official duties as president. Donald Trump is saying the same thing.
But the Supreme Court did not agree with Bill Clinton.
“Second, our decision rejecting the immunity claim and allowing the case to proceed does not require us to confront the question whether a court may compel the attendance of the President at any specific time or place. We assume that the testimony of the President, both for discovery and for use at trial, may be taken at the White House at a time that as a proper exercise of judicial discretion, may stay such litigation until the President leaves office.”
The Supreme Court also did not agree that the litigation against the president should be stayed until after his term, noting it would cause “irreparable harm” and “irreparable loss” to the complainant Paula Jones. In November 1998, the Washington Post reported that Bill Clinton settled his lawsuit against Paula Jones out of court, with an $800,000 settlement.
It was a settlement that Paul Jones did not see much of, reports the Washington Post. She had an extensive legal team that included a Dallas-based team that was reportedly working on a one-third contingency agreement. The Rutherford Institute also claimed $400,000 in expenses, and former lawyers placed an $800,000 lien on her case.
Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway was a member of the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz, and behind many lawsuits against Bill Clinton reports Bloomberg Politics. Conway closed his 1994 L.A. Times Op-Ed against Bill Clinton he wrote the following.
“No man in this country is so high that he is above the law….Incumbency does not relieve the president of the routine legal obligations that confine all citizens…In a case involving is private conduct, a president should be treated like any private citizen. The rule of law requires no more – and no less.”
A ruling for Summer Zervos or for Donald Trump on the matter of immunity has not yet taken place. Watch the entire press conference of Summer Zervos with Gloria Allred right here.
In the meantime, Donald Trump is asking in his proclamation for National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month to respect women. On the matter of prevention he said the following.
“We recommit ourselves this month to establishing a culture of respect and appreciation for the dignity of every human being. I urge all Americans, families, law enforcement, health care providers, community and faith-based organizations, and private organizations, to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities.”
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]