Sue in haste, repent at leisure. Two months ago, a federal judge ordered Stormy Daniels to pay Donald Trump’s legal fees after ruling her defamation suit over an insulting tweet to have been frivolous. Today, Trump’s lawyers will deliver a $340,000 bill in court, arguing that it took hundreds of hours to deal with Michael Avenatti’s public grandstanding as well as the legal processes involved:
Lawyers for President Donald Trump want porn actress Stormy Daniels to pay them $340,000 in legal bills they claim they earned successfully defending Trump against her frivolous defamation claim.
The attorneys are due in a Los Angeles federal courtroom Monday to make their case that they rang up big bills because of gamesmanship and aggressive tactics by attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels. …
Trump’s team of lawyers have accounted for more than 500 hours of work — at rates as high as $840 an hour.
Something tells me the court will not look favorably on the amount of time and the rates involved in this effort. The total bill comes to almost three times the amount Michael Cohen paid Daniels to keep her mouth shut in the first place ($130,000). The New York Times noted at the time that the final dollar amount would “not be insignificant,” but come on, man.
Or maybe it’s not that far out of the ballpark, given how the NYT framed it at the time:
The money now owed by Ms. Clifford to compensate Mr. Trump’s team of lawyers for their work on the case over nearly six months will not be insignificant. While Charles J. Harder, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said Monday that the fees had yet to be determined, the case required several lawyers and multiple court filings. At least four lawyers represented the president at a recent court hearing in Los Angeles, and one filing drew on research that cited more than three dozen cases as precedent.
If that’s truly the case, then Michael Avenatti’s first offer isn’t likely to get much traction with the judge, either:
Avenatti, who has positioned himself as a Trump foe and is considering a run for president in 2020, said the fees are “staggering and grossly inflated” and should not exceed $25,000.
Trump’s lead attorney said the fees and unspecified monetary sanctions were earned because of the extraordinary nature of the case.
“This action is virtually unprecedented in American legal history,” attorney Charles Harder wrote. Daniels “not only brought a meritless claim for defamation against the sitting president of the United States, but she also has engaged, along with her attorney, in massive national publicity.”
Harder noted she appeared on national TV, penned a book and went on a live strip club tour dubbed “Make America Horny Again” — a riff on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
If Harder’s making a case that the judge should apply legal fees as punitive measures beyond a reasonable cost, he’s going to be told to file his own lawsuit for that purpose. Harder’s more likely to argue that the Avenatti-Daniels Road Show forced attorneys to work constantly to deal with the publicity and the political fallout the pair deliberately created. That might get some sympathy from the judge, who already thinks that the two wasted the court’s time, but … a third of a million bucks’ worth of sympathy? That seems a bit of a reach, even given the massive and nonsensical public-relations campaign that both Avenatti and Daniels are still pursuing.
Still on the agenda, of course, is whether Daniels will have to return the money she got from abrogating the non-disclosure agreement. Avenatti claims that the agreement was void from the beginning by not having Trump’s signature on it, but Daniels took the money after signing off on it herself. Michael Cohen can use the cash at the moment, but if she loses, Daniels might have even more reason to reconsider her choice of attorney … although she might not be able to afford another.