Supreme Court won’t hear Stormy Daniels defamation case against Trump

It’s not the end of the president’s legal battles though

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 22 February 2021 20:36
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Don Jr attacks 'people's republic of New York for decision against father

The Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit from adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed Donald Trump defamed her after she threatened to go public with details of their alleged affair together.

The high court made the ruling without comment on Monday, leaving in place a federal appeals court decision from 2020 tossing the suit.

Ms Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, claims she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006 but didn’t speak publicly about it under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). In 2011, after she decided to share details of the alleged affair with In Touch Weekly magazine, Ms Daniels says a stranger approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot and threatened her and her child if the story went forward saying, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”

In 2018, once Mr Trump was already president, Ms Daniels released a sketch of the individual she said threatened her in Vegas, which the president mocked as a “con job” on Twitter, triggering the lawsuit.

"A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” the president wrote, retweeting another user’s post mocking the similarity between the sketch and Ms Daniels’s ex-husband. “A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

Monday’s decision affirms a 2020 ruling from the 9th Circuit of Appeals, which held that the tweet was an opinion, not a fact, and wasn’t alleging criminality, so the president wasn’t defaming the actress.

Rather, the judges wrote, it was not “anything more than a colorful expression of rhetorical hyperbole.”

As a result of losing the case, Ms Daniels was ordered to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees.

In the days leading up to the 2016 election, Ms Daniels was paid roughly $130,000 as part of the NDA about the alleged affair. Mr Trump denies any relationship occurred.

Ms Daniels sued the president in a separate suit in 2018 to break out of the NDA, which was dismissed after the former president declined to enforce the deal, and a judge ordered Mr Trump to pay around $44,000 in legal fees for Ms Daniels. 

The end of these suits is not the end of the discussion over what the president is legally entitled to say about the women who’ve accused him and his associates of wrongdoing.

E Jean Carroll, a former columnist at Elle magazine, accused the former president of raping her in a Manhattan department store during the ‘90s, and filed a defamation suit against Mr Trump when he denied it.

In January, the US department of justice argued before an appeals court that the US government should take the place of Mr Trump in the suit, because his statements about the accusations were in the course of his protected work as a government employee.

The ex-president faces a number of lawsuits and criminal investigations now that he’s left office.

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