On Tuesday, a district court judge ordered Stormy Daniels to pay $293,000 in legal fees to President Donald Trump as the result of a defamation lawsuit Daniels had filed against him. Trump's legal team had asked that Daniels be fined nearly $800,000 in the case, but the judge ruled that this was an excessive request, and that Trump's attorneys could have spent their resources more efficiently than they did while trying the case.
"The descriptions of the work performed suggest that the hours spent on tasks by [Trump's] attorneys were excessive," U.S. District Judge S. James Otero wrote, adding that Trump's team "should have been litigated much more efficiently." Otero also said that Harder "submitted significant extraneous evidence, including a detailed list of [Daniels'] movie history and filmography, which was unnecessary to this Court's decision-making."
Trump's lawyer Charles Harder released a statement to Law & Crime proclaiming that the ruling amounted to "a total victory for the President." Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti noted, however, that Trump was awarded less than half what he had asked for. Avenatti also predicted that Daniels will win a separate lawsuit in which she's sued Trump for $1.5 million, and as a result, "will never half to pay a dime" to Trump.
All of this stems from Daniels' claim that she had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006, which Trump denies. The alleged affair has resulted in protracted legal action from both Trump and Daniels against one another.
Tuesday's ruling is the result of a defamation lawsuit that Avenatti filed against Trump in April. Daniels says that in 2011 — after she spoke to InTouch magazine about her alleged affair with Trump — a man approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot and obliquely threatened her if she didn't stay quiet about the matter.
“Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,” Daniels says the man told her before motioning toward her infant daughter. “That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
Daniels subsequently released a forensic sketch of the man she says threatened her. In response, Trump tweeted that the man was "nonexistent" and accused Daniels of perpetrating "a total con job." In response, Avenatti sued Trump for defamation. (Daniels later claimed that Avenatti did this against her wishes; days later, she said that the two had "sorted sh*t" out and that she would continue retaining him as her attorney.)
Otero ruled, however, that Trump had a First Amendment right to respond to Daniels' claims.
"To allow [Daniels] to proceed with her defamation action would, in effect, permit [her] to make public allegations against the President without giving him the opportunity to respond," Otero wrote. "Such a holding would violate the First Amendment."
Avenatti became famous in his own right through his representation of Daniels. He's made several bold predictions, including that Trump "will not serve out his term" and that the president's eldest son "will be indicted before his birthday on 12-31-18," and for some time said that he was considering a 2020 presidential campaign. However, he announced in early December that he won't be running for president after all out of "respect for [his] family."