A federal judge has tossed porn star Stormy Daniels’s defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump, saying that he has a right to engage in “‘rhetorical hyperbole’ against a political adversary” under the First Amendment. Daniels is required to pay Trump’s legal fees for the lawsuit.
The defamation suit is one of two lawsuits that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, with her lawyer Michael Avenatti, has filed against Trump: in March, she challenged the validity of a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 election that barred her from speaking about their relationship.
In April, Daniels shared a sketch of a man who allegedly threatened her to stay quiet about her affair with Trump, to which Trump responded on Twitter as “a total con job.” Avenatti promptly filed a defamation suit, claiming Trump’s “statement falsely attacks the veracity of Ms. Clifford’s account of the threatening incident that took place in 2011.”
“The court agrees with Mr. Trump’s argument because the tweet in question constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States,” U.S. District Judge S. James Otero wrote in the decision. “The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
“If this Court were to prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in this type of ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ against a political adversary, it would significantly hamper the office of the President,” he wrote.
“No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, can truthfully characterize today’s ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,” Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder wrote in an email to the Washington Post.
Avenatti tweeted in response that Trump’s fees from the defamation case “will be dwarfed by the fees” that he and his former lawyer Michael Cohen “will be required to pay in connection with the NDA case.”
“Not even close,” he wrote. Avenatti has filed a notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit.