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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

US judge tosses out Stormy Daniels defamation suit against Trump

Trump claims adult film actress invented threats

Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, exits the US Federal Court in Lower Manhattan, New York. AFP
Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, exits the US Federal Court in Lower Manhattan, New York. AFP

President Donald Trump scored a legal victory against porn star Stormy Daniels when a federal US judge rejected her defamation suit against him.

Daniels - whose real name is Stephanie Clifford - still has a separate lawsuit against the president linked to $130,000 in hush money she was paid by Mr Trump's lawyer shortly before the November 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

US District Judge S. James Otero on Monday tossed out the defamation suit Daniels filed earlier this year after Mr Trump claimed on Twitter that the adult film actress had invented threats to silence her over her claims the pair slept together more than a decade ago.

"The Court agrees with Mr Trump's argument because the tweet in question constitutes 'rhetorical hyperbole' normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States," Mr Otero wrote in his ruling.

"The First Amendment (of the US Constitution) protects this type of rhetorical statement."

Mr Trump's lawyer Charles Harder called the ruling a "total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels."

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Mr Otero ruled that the billionaire Mr Trump is entitled to have his lawyers' fees paid as part of the ruling.

The amount will be determined later, Mr Harder said.

Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti - who has strongly suggested he is ready to take on President Trump in the 2020 elections - later posted on his Twitter account a notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit court.

Daniels sued after Mr Trump tweeted in April about her release of a sketch of a man she said warned her in a Las Vegas parking lot not to talk about their tryst.

"A sketch years later about a nonexistent man," Mr Trump tweeted. "A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it!)," the president tweeted.

Former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations in the form of hush payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who alleged they had affairs with Mr Trump.

He said he had paid them at the president's request.

Although Mr Cohen did not name the women, they were believed to be Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Because the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, they violated US laws governing campaign contributions, making Mr Trump an - as yet - unindicted co-conspirator.

The president's story about Mr Cohen's payments has changed multiple times.

In September, Mr Cohen's lawyer said that, following the August guilty plea, Mr Cohen provided "critical information" to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded.

Separately, President Trump was sued for defamation in 2017 by Summer Zervos, who was a contestant on his former reality TV show "The Apprentice."

She claims Mr Trump lied when responding to her allegations that he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2007.

US media reported in September that Mr Trump would provide sworn written responses in the case.