U.S. District Judge James Otero said that Trump was well within his right to free speech when he tweeted about Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, earlier this year, saying she was a “total con job.” Those comments, which Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti called defamation, were just politics, the judge ruled.
“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. “The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
Avenatti on Monday said the ruling did not affect his client’s other claims against Trump or the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and said he would appeal the dismissal.
Daniels is also suing Trump in Los Angeles Superior Court over a nondisclosure agreement, which was meant to prevent her from discussing her claim of a 2006 affair with Trump, saying it’s invalid because the president never signed it.
“Daniels’ other claims against Trump and Cohen proceed unaffected. Trump’s contrary claims are as deceptive as his claims about the inauguration attendance,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter, saying he was “confident in a reversal.”
Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder celebrated the news.
“No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, can truthfully characterize today’s ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,” Harder said in a statement to the media.
Daniels filed the lawsuit earlier this year after she spoke about her claims that a man had made a threat against her if she spoke about her alleged affair with Trump to the media. The president, who has continued to deny any relationship with Daniels, later lambasted her claims on Twitter, saying they were “a total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
Daniels’ attorneys said the message amounted to an attack on her character and painted her as a liar, resulting in the defamation suit.
Otero had signaled last month that he might toss the suit, saying that much of the president’s rhetoric amounted to “free speech by a public official on a matter of public concern.”