Trump Makes Bid to Dump Stormy Defamation Suit

Joined by her attorney Michael Avenatti, porn actress Stormy Daniels sat down with the co-hosts of “The View” on April 17, 2018, for her first live television interview, joined in studio by her attorney Michael Avenatti.
(ABC/Heidi Gutman)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – An attorney for President Donald Trump asked a federal judge on Monday to toss porn star Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit, arguing she can’t claim to have been damaged by a presidential tweet when she’s making big money from her newfound fame.

In a motion to strike Daniels’ suit, Charles Harder of Harder LLP firm said Daniels has become famous due to her legal tussle with Trump and has capitalized on it by “embarking on a nationwide tour of adult live entertainment venues” where she is regularly paid four times her normal fee.

Harder said Daniels’ nationwide “Make America Horny Again” strip club tour is an “obvious parody” of Trump’s campaign slogan and designed to generate further interest in her tour.

“Plaintiff is making money – not suffering economic harm – as a result of her disputes with the president,” Harder wrote in the filing.

Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump and shell company Essential Consultants in a separate case to nullify a confidentiality agreement. She claims Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged 2006 affair with Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

According to Daniels, while she was working to publish a tell-all expose about the affair in 2011, a man approached her and her infant daughter in a Las Vegas parking lot and threatened her to keep quiet. This year, she and her attorney Michael Avenatti released the sketch of the man while appearing on ABC’s “The View.”

This artist’s drawing released by attorney Michael Avenatti, reports to show the man that the adult film actress Stormy Daniels says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to remain quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump. (Michael Avenatti via AP)

The defamation lawsuit against Trump was filed April 30, after he tweeted comments dismissing Daniels’ accusation as an elaborate ploy.

“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” Trump tweeted on April 18. “A total con job playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

Daniels is a “clear public figure” and as such is required to plead and prove that Trump acted with malice and reckless disregard for the truth when he tweeted his disbelief of her story, Harder wrote, and called her defamation suit “nothing more than a public relations move” to obtain more attention.

“This suit is designed to chill the president’s free speech rights on matters of public concern,” Harder wrote.

In a statement to Courthouse News, Avenatti said Harder’s claims are “as baseless as Trump’s attacks on Senator McCain.”

But Harder had words for Avenatti in the motion as well, noting his more than 140 media appearances talking about Daniels’ fight with Trump and more recently his possible political aspirations.

“Mr. Avenatti feels his attacks on the president (while acting on plaintiff’s behalf) have been so effective that he now is exploring a run for presidency of the United States himself,” Harder wrote.

Harder said Trump’s tweets are protected speech because they are opinions on matters concerning the public and therefore protected by state anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) laws.

“Politicians, in the course of public debate, are entitled to enter the debate and express their beliefs, including their disbeliefs, of the claims of their adversaries,” Harder wrote in the filing.

This combination photo shows, from left, President Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels. (AP Photo)

Daniels has said the tweet is defamation “per se,” meaning that it falsely accuses her of “committing a serious crime.” Fabricating both the crime and the existence of an assailant would violate numerous state laws, she notes in her initial complaint.

Trump has made few public statements about Daniels, and the White House has consistently denied the affair took place.

Cohen, the president’s longtime fixer, said in federal court recently that he paid Daniels “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” without naming Trump directly.

Cohen’s defense attorney Lanny Davis did name the president, saying on Twitter the payments were made at the direction of then-candidate Trump.

 

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