Federal Judge Ditches Stormy Daniels’ Defamation Suit Against President Trump

She claimed he falsely accused her of a crime. The court disagreed.

Stormy DanielsRalf Hirschberger/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

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A federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump Monday afternoon. The lawsuit, filed in April, concerned Daniels’ claim that she had been approached and threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, soon after she agreed to discuss her affair with Trump in an article with In Touch magazine. Daniels says she never went public with her story as a result of the threat, but in April 2018 released a sketch of the man who threatened her. The day after the sketch was released, the president tweeted that the sketch was of a “nonexistent man” and “a total con job.”

Daniels (a.k.a. Stephanie Clifford) claimed in her complaint, which was first filed in New York, that the president had defamed her by accusing her of committing a crime: “[B]y calling the incident a ‘con job’ Mr. Trump’s statement would be understood to state that Ms. Clifford was fabricating the crime and the existence of the assailant, both of which are prohibited under New York law, as well as the law of numerous other states.” (The case was later transferred to a court in California.)

Last last month, Judge S. James Otero, indicated he was likely to dismiss the case, noting that Trump’s tweet was protected under free speech laws. Court documents posted Monday stated that the court considered Trump’s tweet “rhetorical hyperbole” protected by the First Amendment. Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, says that he plans to appeal.

Another lawsuit related to Daniels’ non-disclosure agreement remains pending.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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