You’re probably aware that Stormy Daniels filed a defamation lawsuit against President Trump back in April. Yesterday, attorneys representing President Trump sought to have that lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the president was exercising his right to free speech. Reuters reports:
In Monday’s motion, Trump’s lawyers said the lawsuit was “designed to chill the president’s free speech rights on matters of public concern.” They cited a law in Daniels’ home state of Texas requiring that such a lawsuit be dismissed unless Daniels could provide “clear and specific evidence” for her claims, which they said she had failed to do.
They also said that Daniels had not been harmed, and had instead “capitalized” on the dispute with a nationwide tour of strip clubs “for which she admittedly is being paid at least four times her normal appearance fee.”
The backstory to this isn’t very complicated. In mid-April, Avenatti and Daniels appeared on The View and revealed a composite sketch of the man that Daniels claims threatened her in a parking lot.
Stormy Daniels and her lawyer revealed a composite sketch of the man she claims threatened her to keep quiet about her alleged affair with President Trump on ABC's @TheView today. pic.twitter.com/6nhiMCkz2E
— Axios (@axios) April 17, 2018
According to Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford), the man approached her when she was putting her infant daughter in the car and warned her to “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” He then added, “A beautiful little girl. It would be a shame if something happened to her mom.” After Daniels released the drawing, President Trump tweeted this:
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
The guy in the photo with Daniels (on the right) is her then husband who really does have more than a passing resemblance to the person in the sketch. Twelve days later, Avenatti announced Daniels was suing Trump for defamation over that tweet:
Moments ago, we filed this lawsuit against Mr. Trump for his recent irresponsible and defamatory statements about my client @stormydaniels. He is well aware of what transpired and his complicity. We fully intend on bringing it to light. #buckleup #bastahttps://t.co/ZuBjI1EY9z
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 30, 2018
Here’s a sample of what the lawsuit says:
Mr. Trump’s statement falsely attacks the veracity of Ms. Clifford’s account of the threatening incident that took place in 2011. It also operates to accuse Ms. Clifford of committing a crime under New York law, as well as the law of numerous other states, in that it effectively states that Ms. Clifford falsely accused an individual of committing a crime against her when no such crime occurred. Mr. Trump’s statement is false and defamatory. In making the statement, Mr. Trump used his national and international audience of millions of people to make a false factual statement to denigrate and attack Ms. Clifford.
I’m not a lawyer so I won’t opine on whether or not Trump’s tweet constitutes defamation. From previous stories about defamation laws I understand a lot hangs on whether someone is considered a public person or not. My gut reaction is that you can’t get much more public than Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti over the past six months but I have no idea what a judge might think about that.
Reuters reports that Avenatti calls the request to dismiss the suit “baseless and desperate.” Reading over Trump’s tweet, half of it is directed at the media (what’s new). The portion aimed at Daniels basically boils down to “she’s a liar.” Is Trump allowed to say that about someone accusing him of hiring goons to make threats? I guess we’ll find out.