A judge on Monday appeared to be leaning toward throwing out a defamation case brought by Stormy Daniels, the porn star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, against President Donald Trump.
Clifford had previously come forward with allegations that a man had threatened her to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump.
She then released a composite sketch of the man who she claimed made the threats.
However, in April, Trump tweeted that Clifford’s claim and composite sketch was a “con job.” He went on to say that the man was “non-existent” and that she was playing the “fake news media for fools.”
A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)! https://t.co/9Is7mHBFda
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
It was that tweet that prompted the defamation lawsuit.
However, Judge S. James Otero in U.S. District Court said that Trump was using “rhetorical hyperbole,” and his speech was protected under the First Amendment, according to Newsmax.
“To allow the complaint to go forward and to have one consider this to be defamatory in the context it was made would have a chilling effect,” Otero said, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “This is the type of political discourse and commentary that takes place in elections all the time, and I’m troubled that there’s a claim here for defamation.”
Michael Avenatti, Daniel’s attorney, disputed Otero’s decision.
“This was not political by any stretch of the imagination,” Avenatti said.
Otero said he would rule on the case soon, but Trump’s speech appeared to be opinion that would be protected under the First Amendment.
Attorney Ken White, who often blogs about the case, said it is similar to one that was thrown out in New York. That case involved a woman who said the president ruined her reputation when he took to Twitter to say she “begged” him for a job.
“The court basically said, ‘It’s Trump, it’s Twitter, he’s known for throwing around insults and this can’t be understood as anything other than exaggerated rhetoric,” White said.
Avenatti, however, made it clear that he would appeal if the case were dismissed.
“I witnessed something here today that I never thought I’d witness. That is: Donald Trump having a lawyer stand up in a federal court and espouse on his behalf the virtues and how important the First Amendment is in America,” Avenatti said.
“This is the same Donald Trump that has crapped all over the First Amendment and the news media for years,” he added.
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