Judge throws out Stormy Daniels’ defamation action against Donald Trump

A US federal judge has dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation action against President Donald Trump.

Judge S James Otero said the president had made a “hyperbolic statement” against a political adversary which was protected under the US constitution’s First Amendment when he tweeted about a composite sketch the porn actress’ lawyer released.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued the US president in April after he said a composite sketch of a man she said threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Mr Trump was a “con job”.

Mr Trump tweeted that the man was “non-existent” and that Ms Daniels was playing the “fake news media for fools”.

He retweeted a side-by-side photo comparing the sketch with a photo of Ms Daniels’ husband.

In an order handed down on Monday, US district judge S James Otero said Mr Trump’s statement was protected under the First Amendment.

“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,” the judge wrote.

“Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive this country of the ‘discourse’ common to the political process.”

Ms Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, vowed to lodge an appeal against the decision and said he was confident it would be reversed.

Mr Avenatti said: “There is something really rich in Trump relying on the First Amendment to justify defaming a woman.”

The president’s lawyer immediately hailed the ruling as a “total victory” for Mr Trump.

Charles Harder said: “No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr Avenatti, can truthfully characterise today’s ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels.”

The judge’s ruling also entitles Mr Trump to collect legal fees from Ms Daniels, but the amount that Ms Daniels would need to pay will be determined later, Mr Harder said.

The defamation claim is separate from another lawsuit Ms Daniels filed against Mr Trump, which is continuing.

She was paid $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is suing to dissolve that contract.

Ms Daniels has argued the agreement should be invalidated because Mr Trump’s then-personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, signed it, but Mr Trump did not.

Lawyers for Mr Trump and Mr Cohen now say the deal that paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet was invalid, and they will not sue her for breaking it.

Mr Trump’s lawyer said the president never considered himself as a party to the agreement and does not dispute Ms Daniels’ assertion that the contract is not valid.

While Mr Trump and Mr Cohen want the court to throw out the litigation as moot, Ms Daniels’ lawyer wants to keep the case alive, hoping to compel Mr Trump to answer questions under oath about what he may have known about the deal.

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations alleging he coordinated with Mr Trump on a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of Ms Daniels and a Playboy model who have alleged they had affairs with Mr Trump.

- Press Association

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