A federal judge tossed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Monday.
In an order handed down Monday, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero, the president made a “hyperbolic statement” against a political adversary when he tweeted about a composite sketch the porn actress’ lawyer released.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump 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 the real estate mogul was a “con job.”
Trump tweeted that the man was “nonexistent” and that Daniels was playing the “fake news media for fools.” He retweeted a side-by-side photo comparing the sketch with a photo of Daniels’ husband.
Otero said Trump’s statement was protected speech 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.”
Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, vowed to appeal the decision and said he was confident it would be reversed.
But the president’s lawyer, Charles Harder, immediately hailed the ruling as a “total victory” for Trump.
The defamation claim is separate from another lawsuit that Daniels filed against Trump, which is continuing. Daniels was paid $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is suing to dissolve that contract. Daniels has argued the agreement should be invalidated because Trump’s then-personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, signed it, but Trump did not.