Trump scores legal wins with one lawsuit dropped and another dismissed

Former President Donald Trump scored two big legal victories Friday and avoided having to sit for a deposition in a defamation lawsuit after former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos agreed to drop her claims, according to a court filing, and a New York judge granted Trump’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen against the Trump Organization.

Zervos had sued Trump in 2017 after he denied allegations that he had sexually assaulted her. A judge had recently ordered Trump to sit for a deposition in the case by December 23. Cohen sued the Trump Organization in 2019, seeking reimbursement of legal fees and saying that after he began cooperating with federal investigators, the company failed to fulfill its contractual obligations to indemnify him or pay his legal bills relating to his work for the firm.

The legal victories for Trump come as the former President’s activities during the final days of his presidency continue to haunt him, as he navigates numerous criminal investigations and business challenges linked to the Capitol riot on January 6. On Friday, his former adviser Steve Bannon was indicted by a grand jury for contempt of Congress after he failed to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the attack.

Zervos lawsuit

In a statement announcing Zervos was dropping her suit, her attorneys wrote, “Today the parties have ended Zervos v. Trump. After five years, Ms. Zervos no longer wishes to litigate against the defendant and has secured the right to speak freely about her experience. Ms. Zervos stands by the allegations in her complaint and has accepted no compensation.”

No additional details were available about the agreement or why Zervos decided to drop the lawsuit.

A one-page joint stipulation filed in court states that the parties agreed that “all claims and counterclaims asserted in this matter, or that could have been asserted, are hereby dismissed and discontinued in their entirety with prejudice, with each party to bear his or her own costs.”

In a statement, the former President said, “President Trump has been totally vindicated.” CNN has reached out to Zervos’ attorneys about that claim.

The legal counsel for writer and former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who sued Trump for defamation and accused him of raping her in a department store in the mid-1990s, put out a statement after Zervos’ case was dropped.

“While we don’t know the circumstances of what happened in the Zervos case, we can say that E. Jean Carroll has no intention of withdrawing her complaint against Donald Trump,” Julie Fink, managing partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink, said in the statement. “Indeed, if the New York Adult Survivors Act (S66/A648) is enacted into law and the statute of limitations is no longer an obstacle, E. Jean will sue Donald Trump not only for defaming her, but also for the underlying sexual assault which occurred at a department store in Manhattan years ago.”

Trump has denied Carroll’s allegations. A federal appeals court will hear arguments in Carroll’s defamation suit in December.

Cohen lawsuit

In another win for Trump on Friday, New York Judge Joel Cohen granted Trump’s motion to dismiss Michael Cohen’s 2019 lawsuit against his company.

“Mr. Cohen’s legal fees arise out of his (sometimes unlawful) service to Mr. Trump personally, to Mr. Trump’s campaign, and to the Trump Foundation, but not out of his service to the business of the Trump Organization, which is the only defendant in this case,” Judge Cohen wrote in his order.

In July 2017, according to the lawsuit filed in the New York state Supreme Court, the Trump Organization agreed to indemnify Cohen and to pay his attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with related investigations.

“The Trump Organization and Mr. Cohen were proceeding pursuant to a ‘joint defense’ at that time with respect to the Investigations and other matters,” the lawsuit says.

Cohen said the company had initially fulfilled its obligation, paying $137,460 in October 2017 to the firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP, which initially represented him, a figure that amounted to half of the invoices he had received. The Trump Organization then promised that the Trump presidential campaign would pay the remainder the following day, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Trump Organization said, “Today’s incredible victory for the Trump Organization puts an end to the frivolous litigation by convicted felon Michael Cohen. While the Southern District of New York already found that Mr. Cohen engaged in a ‘smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct…motivated by personal greed and ambition,’ Mr. Cohen attempted to invent a basis for requiring the Trump Organization to pay his legal fees for personal criminal conduct (including perjury). Mr. Cohen’s attempts at self-enrichment, however, once again failed. Having won this case, we now look forward to seeking monetary damages against Mr. Cohen for all of his despicable conduct.”

Michael Cohen criticized the judge’s decision in a statement to CNN on Friday.

“I think it’s a terrible decision by Justice Cohen based upon the fact that I was directed to handle the matters that I did at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald J Trump and the Trump Organization. Over the course of the weekend I will be evaluating with my counsel whether to file an appeal or not,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional reporting Friday.

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