Federal Judge Ditches Stormy Daniels’ Defamation Suit Against President Trump

She claimed he falsely accused her of a crime. The court disagreed.

Stormy DanielsRalf Hirschberger/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

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A federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump Monday afternoon. The lawsuit, filed in April, concerned Daniels’ claim that she had been approached and threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, soon after she agreed to discuss her affair with Trump in an article with In Touch magazine. Daniels says she never went public with her story as a result of the threat, but in April 2018 released a sketch of the man who threatened her. The day after the sketch was released, the president tweeted that the sketch was of a “nonexistent man” and “a total con job.”

Daniels (a.k.a. Stephanie Clifford) claimed in her complaint, which was first filed in New York, that the president had defamed her by accusing her of committing a crime: “[B]y calling the incident a ‘con job’ Mr. Trump’s statement would be understood to state that Ms. Clifford was fabricating the crime and the existence of the assailant, both of which are prohibited under New York law, as well as the law of numerous other states.” (The case was later transferred to a court in California.)

Last last month, Judge S. James Otero, indicated he was likely to dismiss the case, noting that Trump’s tweet was protected under free speech laws. Court documents posted Monday stated that the court considered Trump’s tweet “rhetorical hyperbole” protected by the First Amendment. Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, says that he plans to appeal.

Another lawsuit related to Daniels’ non-disclosure agreement remains pending.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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