Judge Orders Trump to Pay Stormy Daniels $44,000 in Legal Fees

It’s a small victory in an endless legal battle.

Stormy Daniels and Michael Avanatti in 2019Mjt/AdMedia/ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

It’s been a bad week in court for President Donald Trump. First, Steve Bannon—his former campaign chief and White House aide—was arrested and charged with defrauding donors who had supported a privately funded effort to build a border wall. Then Trump lost his legal bid to delay handing over his tax returns to New York prosecutors. And now, a California judge has ordered him to pay $44,000 in legal fees to porn star Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels.

The fees stem from Daniels’ fight to be released from a nondisclosure agreement she signed with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in October 2016, during the presidential campaign, in which Cohen paid her $130,000 in exchange for keeping quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. Trump, who has denied having an affair with Daniels, later reimbursed Cohen for the payment. 

Daniels claimed that the NDA was invalid because Trump himself never signed it. She ultimately prevailed in the case after Trump agreed not to try to enforce the contract or to seek repayment of the $130,000. Cohen, meanwhile, was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion and campaign finance violations related to the hush-money payment. While the legal case was largely moot, Daniels continued to press for Trump to pay her legal fees and expenses that were required to win the case. On Monday, a California Superior Court judge awarded her $44,100 in legal fees as the prevailing party but denied her motion to recoup about $10,000 in expenses.

Daniels and Trump have been embroiled in legal disputes for years now, and while this week’s award is a big win for Daniels, it’s small change compared to what she owes Trump in legal fees from a different case. In 2018, represented by Michael Avanatti, Daniels filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump over a tweet that attacked her credibility. A federal judge found Trump’s tweet to be protected opinion, dismissed the case, and ordered her to pay Trump nearly $300,000 in legal fees for a case that lasted but six months. 

After the decision, Avanatti tweeted, “We will appeal the dismissal of the defamation cause of action and are confident in a reversal.” He added, “There is something really rich in Trump relying on the First Amendment to justify defaming a woman.” A few months later, Avanatti was arrested on extortion, fraud, and embezzlement charges. He was subsequently charged with stealing nearly $300,000 from Daniels herself. That case is supposed to go to trial in October. Meanwhile, Daniels has continued to appeal the dismissal of her defamation case and the fee award—meaning that her legal battle with Trump may last longer than his presidency or even the alleged affair that started it all.

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.

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.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate