LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge on Tuesday ordered adult film star Stormy Daniels to pay $293,000 in legal fees to President Donald Trump after her bid to sue him on defamation claims failed.
Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump over a comment he tweeted after she and her attorney Michael Avenatti released an artist’s sketch of a man Daniels said threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to dissuade her from publishing an account of a supposed one-night affair she had with Trump.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” Trump tweeted this past April.
Daniels sued, claiming the president’s comment made it sound like she fabricated the crime and the existence of the assailant – a violation of the law in several states, according to her lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge James Otero said in a 9-page order Tuesday that because Trump’s tweet was “a protected opinion” and because the case was thrown out, Daniels must pay Trump’s legal fees.
But Otero said Daniels won’t have to pay sanctions sought by the president’s lawyers, finding that paying Trump’s legal fees “is already a means to deter [Daniels] from bringing SLAPP litigation in the future.”
Otero said that “despite rhetorically hyperbolic statements” Trump has made recently about Daniels and her attorney, she has shown that she won’t seek to file any more defamation claims.
“Plaintiff’s unwillingness to resort to litigation in light of defendant’s continuing use of rhetorical hyperbole suggests that plaintiff is already being deterred from filing meritless defamation claims,” Otero wrote.
Trump’s team had originally sought $778,000 in attorney’s fees and sanctions.
After the order was issued, Avenatti wrote on Twitter that the amount owed by Daniels is a fraction of the $1.5 million Trump will owe Daniels in a separate lawsuit in which she seeks to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed related to the supposed affair.
“Trump and his attorney’s attempt to fool the public about the importance of the attorneys’ fees in the defamation case…is an absolute joke,” Avenatti said.
Prior to the 2016 election, Daniels says she was offered a $130,000 settlement to keep quiet about her 2006 affair with Trump. Trump continues to deny Daniels’ allegations, though Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team he’d arranged the payment at the president’s behest.
In fact, federal prosecutors included a thinly veiled reference to Trump in their Dec. 7 sentencing memo for Cohen. “In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” it states.
Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, did not respond to a request for comment.