Pasadena court affirms Stormy Daniels must pay Trump attorney’s fees
A Pasadena appeals court has affirmed a judge’s ruling that adult film actress Stormy Daniels must pay ex-President Donald Trump roughly $292,000 in attorney’s fees stemming from a lawsuit alleging she was defamed by one of his tweets.
A panel of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges issued a memorandum on Friday upholding a ruling by a Los Angeles federal judge that Daniels must pay attorney’s fees, costs and sanctions to Trump after she lost her suit.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed the libel lawsuit — in which she was represented by Michael Avenatti — against Trump in 2018 over his tweet that her claim of being threatened to keep quiet about their alleged affair was “a total con job.”
The case was tossed after the court found that Trump was merely offering an opinion, that the then-president had a right to tweet any opinion or overstatement and that Daniels failed to show he acted with malice.
In a statement, Trump attorney Harmeet Dhillon said that on behalf of Trump, “we are gratified by the 9th Circuit’s ruling completely in his favor, upholding the lower court’s judgment awarding him $292,052.33 in fees and costs, and $1,000 in sanctions, at the end of Ms. Clifford’s frivolous lawsuit pushed so aggressively by Michael Avenatti for purposes that certainly did not benefit his client.”
Daniels had claimed a stranger threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 and warned her to keep quiet about an intimate relationship she allegedly had with Trump five years earlier, before he was elected president.
The actress and Avenatti released an artist’s sketch of the man who she claimed threatened her, and a Twitter user posted a comparison between Daniels’ ex-husband and the alleged attacker.
Trump tweeted that, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
In a 2020 appellate ruling upholding the lower court, the court stated that under the law of Texas, where Daniels lives, a statement that interprets facts “is an opinion, and, as noted, statements of opinion cannot form the basis of a defamation claim.”
“Viewed through the eyes of an objectively reasonable reader, the tweet here reflects Mr. Trump’s opinion about the implications of the allegedly similar appearances of Ms. Clifford’s ex-husband and the man in the sketch,” according to the ruling.
Daniels has said she had sex once with the married Trump in 2006 and carried on a platonic relationship with him for about a year afterward. She detailed the alleged affair in her book “Full Disclosure,” published four years ago.
Trump has denied any sexual relationship with Daniels.