A federal judge said Monday he’s leaning toward dismissing Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President Trump.
The porn star filed the action in April, saying Trump unfairly branded her a liar when he scoffed at her claim she was threatened in a parking lot to keep quiet about their alleged affair.
In a Twitter post, Trump likened the claim to a “con job” and said the alleged man who made the threat didn’t exist.
“Just looking at the tweet here, it appears to be one that would be protected,” U.S. District Judge James Otero said at a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles.
“In the court’s view, it appears to be rhetorical hyperbole,” he continued after hearing arguments from both sides.
The judge didn’t issue a final ruling, but he said allowing Daniels’ complaint to go forward would cause “a chilling effect for candidates running for office” and “hamper political discourse.”
Trump posted the tweet last spring after Daniels released a sketch showing her recollection of the man who allegedly threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 because she told In Touch magazine she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” Trump said in the tweet.
The Trump tweet referenced an earlier tweet from someone who suggested Daniels’ ex-husband bore a striking resemblance to the suspect depicted in the sketch.
Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder, famous for his takedown of Gawker Media in the Hulk Hogan sex tape case, argued in court Monday that Trump was expressing an “opinion” that Daniels was trying to “fool the media.”
He said Trump based his assertion that the man didn’t exist “on the fact (the sketch) looks like her ex-husband.”
Daniels’ lawyers, including Michael Avenatti, argued that Trump was making a factual statement that could be proved wrong.
“I witnessed something here today that I thought I would never witness, and that is Donald Trump having a lawyer stand up in a federal court and espouse on his behalf the virtues and how important the First Amendment is in America,” Avenatti told reporters after the hearing.
“This is the same Donald Trump that has crapped all over the First Amendment and the news media for years (and) wants to jail journalists,” he said. “The irony associated with that is absolutely palpable.”
Otero is expected to issue a final ruling in the coming days or weeks.
He called the Monday hearing to discuss the defamation case and also set a schedule for upcoming events in Daniels’ separate lawsuit against Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen over her $130,000 hush-money deal.
Cohen and Trump want that case dismissed because they separately filed paperwork saying they will not pursue a multimillion-dollar arbitration action against Daniels related to the deal and are simply walking away from it.
Daniels, meanwhile, wants the case to move ahead so she can prove the deal was an illegal use of campaign finance money. If it’s proven illegal, as opposed to never formed, Cohen could not try to recoup the $130,000, Avenatti explained in paperwork.