A federal judge in California indicated that he would likely dismiss Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump citing the First Amendment, Reuters reported.
The adult film actress, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, said a man in Las Vegas threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about the alleged affair. In April, she sued the president after he disputed her claims about the threat in a tweet.
Judge S. James Otero said in U.S. District Court that Trump's tweet appeared to be "rhetorical hyperbole" and is protected by freedom of speech.
The case was originally filed in New York but later transferred to the Los Angeles court where Otero is holding hearings on another case that involves Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
What did the tweet say?
The lawsuit is centered on Daniels' claim that a man approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011. She said the man had threatened her to keep her mouth shut about the alleged affair between her and Trump.
Trump's tweet followed Daniels' release of a sketch that depicted the man she claimed threatened her.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The tweet included a retweet of the side-by-side photos of the sketch of the man and a picture of Daniels and her husband.
A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know… https://t.co/EcZ0Hs5IJg— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1524046130.0
Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti said the tweet was damaging to Daniels because it portrayed her to be a liar.
What did the judge say?
Otero cited the U.S. Constitution’s free speech protections.
“The question is whether the tweet by the president is protected communication or political hyperbole and non-defamatory on its face,” Otero said at Monday's hearing, Reuters reported. “He’s a public official, he’s president of the United States, so it doesn’t get much higher than that. It’s free speech by a public official on a matter of public concern."
Otero stopped short of issuing a decision on the request by Trump's lawyers to dismiss the case.
After the hearing, Avenatti told reporters he expected the judge to rule in the coming days. If the case is dismissed, he plans to appeal the decision.
Lawyer Charles Harder, who's representing Trump, told Talking Points Memo that he plans to ask for Daniels pay the president's legal fees if the case is dismissed.