In October 2018, U.S. District Judge James Otero ruled in favor of President Trump in the defamation suit brought by Stormy Daniels against Trump. Otero claimed Trump’s words were protected speech, and that Trump was entitled to attorney’s fees incurred in fighting these defamation charges. This week, Otero set those fees at $293,000.
Background on the Defamation Case
In case you’ve tuned out all of the news surrounding Trump, Daniels, and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, here’s a primer. Stormy Daniels, a former adult film star, alleged that she and Trump had an affair back in 2006. In 2016, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, allegedly paid Daniels $130,000 and forced her to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) stating that she would never divulge that they had sex. Of course, Daniels has violated that agreement, and Trump has proclaimed that he hasn’t had sex with Daniels, and knows nothing about this NDA. (Can we all still faintly hear those famous words “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, which turned out to be fake news.)
The Sketch, “The View”, and The Tweet
In early 2018, Daniels and her lawyer, Avenatti, released an artist’s sketch of a man Daniels claims threatened her and her daughter in a Las Vegas parking lot back in 2011, trying to intimidate her into not publishing an account of her alleged one-night-stand with Trump. Daniels then went on a few talk shows in early 2018 to discuss this sketch. After Daniels appeared on the daytime talk show, “The View”, Trump tweeted, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” Daniels then filed a defamation suit against Trump for this tweet, but Judge Otero ruled in October that Trump’s tweet was “the definition of protected rhetorical hyperbole.”, and therefore a protected opinion. Otero ruled for Trump, against Daniels, and stated Daniels would be ordered to pay Trump’s attorney’s fees. In this recent ruling, Judge Otero set the amount for the attorney’s fees at $293,000, far less than the $778,000 Trump’s attorneys had asked for. Otero also ruled that Daniels would not have to pay sanctions sought by Trump’s lawyers, since Otero believed that paying Trump’s legal fees “is already a means to deter [Daniels] from bringing SLAPP litigation in the future.”
Up Next: The NDA Lawsuit
Keep in mind that this defamation case has little to no bearing on the NDA case Avenatti and Daniels have filed against Trump and Cohen. That is a separate suit to void the NDA she signed back in 2016, and seeks $1.5 million in damages. That case is looking pretty good for Daniels. In the December 7th sentencing memo for Cohen, federal prosecutors wrote, “In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.”
Grab the popcorn!