A Los Angeles federal judge Monday tossed out a defamation claim filed by adult-film actress Stormy Daniels against President Donald Trump, but the balance of her lawsuit stemming from an alleged affair more than a decade ago remains intact.
Daniels claimed Trump defamed her in April when he tweeted that she had fabricated a story about being threatened by a stranger who told her to keep quiet about an alleged affair she claims she had with Trump in 2006.
The actress and tell-all author alleged that an unidentified man — who was shown in a composite sketch released to the public April 17 — approached her in 2011 while she was holding her infant daughter in a Las Vegas parking lot. She claimed the man told her, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story. That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
A day later, 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)!”
Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, argued during a recent hearing that the tweet was protected by the First Amendment because, among other things, it consisted of a public official’s opinion about a public figure. He also alleged that Daniels had not shown evidence of any harm suffered as a result of the tweet.
One of Daniels’ attorneys, Ahmed Ibrahim, countered that Trump’s tweet could be proven to be a “bald-faced lie” issued with “actual malice.”
In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said Trump wrote the Twitter post “as a rejoinder against an individual challenging him in the public arena. This is the definition of protected rhetorical hyperbole.”
Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti responded to the ruling on Twitter, writing that her other claims against Trump and his former lawyer Michael Avenatti “proceed unaffected.” He said he would appeal the Otero’s ruling.
On Dec. 3, Otero will hold a hearing to consider a defense motion to dismiss the remainder of Daniels’ lawsuit. Daniels, whose recently published book “Full Disclosure” details her alleged affair with Trump more than a decade ago, is seeking to nullify a non-disclosure agreement she signed before the 2016 presidential election.
That case, however, could be moot based on papers filed by attorneys for Trump and Cohen saying they have no plan to go forward with a threatened $20 million lawsuit against Daniels for speaking out about the alleged affair.
The pact attempted to prevent her from speaking out about the one-night stand she contends she had with Trump, but she has already discussed the alleged affair in her book and in interviews.
Also subject to the lawsuit is Essential Consultants — a shell company set up by Cohen to handle a $130,000 payment made to Daniels in exchange for her signing the agreement.
Otero has postponed the start of the non-disclosure agreement lawsuit twice. In April, the judge ordered a three-month stay in light of a federal criminal investigation of Cohen that is continuing in the Southern District of New York. With that investigation ongoing, Otero agreed in July to extend the stay for another 45 days.
Daniels, 39, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex once with the married Trump in 2006 and carried on a platonic relationship with him for about a year afterward. Trump has denied any sexual relationship with Daniels.