11 May Trump in new defamation claim by Stormy Daniels
President Donald Trump is being sued for defamation by porn star Stormy Daniels over a tweet in which he dismissed as a ‘total con job’ a sketch released by Daniels which she claimed was of a man who approached her in a Las Vegas car park warning her to ‘leave Trump alone.’
The lawsuit says the tweet was ‘false and defamatory’, arguing that Trump was speaking about Daniels and that he ‘knew that his false, disparaging statement would be read by people around the world, as well as widely reported’.
It also says Daniels has been ‘exposed to death threats and other threats of physical violence’ following the tweet.
The tweet was published by Trump in the context of an existing legal claim over a non-disclosure agreement which Daniels signed a month before the 2016 election, in return for a payment of $130,000, in order to keep the details of an alleged affair between her and Trump quiet.
She now claims the agreement, which involved a payment by the president’s then personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was void because Trump had not signed it.
That claim was itself stayed recently following an FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office and the launch of a criminal investigation into his conduct.
Cohen relied on his right against self-incrimination, and his inability to defend the claim properly, as a result of the overlap between issues in the lawsuit and those in the investigation.
Commentators in the United States have described Daniels’ defamation claim as ‘splendid’, and pointed to the prospect of her lawyer Michael Avenatti being able to depose the President and question him under oath about his relationship with Daniels, and knowledge of the subsequent events.
In contrast to the parallel investigation into Russian interference in the election by special counsel Robert Mueller, Daniels’ claims are proceeding in the full glare of publicity and her lawyer Avenatti has spoken out freely about them to the media.
‘Ultimately, he is going to be forced to resign,’ he told the Guardian.
‘I don’t know how he will ultimately spin his departure, but I firmly believe there is going to be too much evidence of wrongdoing by him and those around him for him to be able to survive the balance of his term.’
The reaction of Trump and those close to him only seems to have made his position worse.
Trump had previously denied the relationship with Daniels and claimed that he did not know about the payment made by Cohen.
However, following the commencement of Daniels’ defamation claim, Rudy Giuliani, a new member of Trump’s legal team, announced on television that the president did know about the payment and had personally reimbursed Cohen for it.
Trump responded by saying that the erstwhile mayor of New York did not have his ‘facts straight’.
Both Trump and Giuliani deny that the $130,000 payment violated campaign finance laws, although this analysis is hotly contested by expert commentators.
Daniels’ claim joins an existing defamation action against Trump by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos in adding to Trump’s libel woes.
As previously reported in Zoom-in, the claim by Zervos has been allowed to proceed by a Judge after Trump’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to argue that he should be benefit from immunity because the statements were made while he was campaigning to be President.
Trump himself has been a prolific libel litigant over the years. In an ironic reversal, it now seems that the same type of legal action could bring about his downfall.