President Donald Trump scored a legal victory Monday against porn star Stormy Daniels when a federal US judge rejected her defamation suit against him.
Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — still has a separate lawsuit against the president linked to $130 000 in hush money she was paid by Trump’s lawyer shortly before the November 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about an alleged affair.
US District Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles tossed out the defamation suit Daniels filed earlier this year after Trump claimed on Twitter that the adult film actress had invented threats to silence her over her claims the pair slept together more than a decade ago.
“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,” Otero wrote in his ruling.
“The First Amendment (of the US Constitution) protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder called the ruling a “total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels.”
Otero ruled that the billionaire Trump is entitled to have his lawyers’ fees paid as part of the ruling.
The amount will be determined later, Harder said.
Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti — who has strongly suggested he is ready to take on Trump in the 2020 elections — later posted on his Twitter account a notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit court.
Hush payments violated law
Daniels sued after Trump tweeted in April about her release of a sketch of a man she said warned her in a Las Vegas parking lot not to talk about their tryst.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” Trump tweeted. “A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it!),” 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)! https://t.co/9Is7mHBFda
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
The president’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations in the form of hush payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump.
He said he had paid them at Trump’s request.
Although Cohen did not name the women, they were believed to be Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Because the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, they violated US laws governing campaign contributions, making Trump an — as yet —unindicted co-conspirator.
The president’s story about Cohen’s payments has changed multiple times.
In September, Cohen’s lawyer said that, following the August guilty plea, Cohen provided “critical information” to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded.
Separately, Trump was sued for defamation in 2017 by Summer Zervos, who was a contestant on Trump’s former reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
She claims Trump lied when responding to her allegations that he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2007.
US media reported in September that Trump would provide sworn written responses in the case.
© Agence France-Presse