A judge ordered adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) to pay nearly $300,000 towards President Donald Trump’s legal fees as a result of a defamation case Clifford brought against him. Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, had requested almost $400,000 for fees in a so-called “anti-SLAPP” motion typically used by journalists, bloggers, and publications to claim costs when sued over constitutionally protected speech.
Clifford alleged that Trump had defamed her in comments after she spoke publicly about pressure she said she received to remain quiet about what she claimed was an affair with Trump a decade earlier. The judge dismissed the libel suit in October on first amendment grounds, stating the president comments fell within the limits of “rhetorical hyperbole.”
Her attorney in the case, Michael Avenatti, told Fortune via email, “Charles Harder and Trump both can’t do basic math. They received less than one half what they asked for because the request was gross and excessive. Stormy will never half [sic] to pay a dime because they owe her over $1 million in attorney’s fees and costs from the main NDA case, especially in light of Cohen’s guilty plea to a felony.” At the time of the case’s dismissal, Avenatti had that Clifford would appeal, though he didn’t comment on that today.
However, Clifford said in a statement on Nov. 28 to the Daily Beast that Avenatti had “filed a defamation case against Donald Trump against my wishes,” and she was considering dropping him as her legal representative.
Another lawsuit in which Clifford has sued Trump, and which Avenatti represents her, remains in process over a non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016 with the intermediation of Michael Cohen to not discuss details of the alleged affair. Clifford claims the agreement is invalid. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to several crimes, including campaign-finance violations related to a payment to Clifford for signing the agreement.
Trump’s attorney in the defamation case asked for $800,000 in legal fees and penalties, and the judge’s award is about 75% of claimed costs. However, the judge declined to effectively impose sanctions equal to legal fees, citing rulings that noted merely being forced to pay those legal costs was deterrence enough. The judge imposed a nominal $1,000 in sanctions for what he’d described as a “meritless” defamation suit.