The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered adult film actress Stormy Daniels to pay former President Donald Trump almost $122,000 in legal fees, stemming from a defamation lawsuit she filed in 2018 against Trump that was later dismissed.
The civil lawsuit is separate from the unprecedented 34-count indictment accusing Trump of falsifying business records. Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Manhattan court on Tuesday.
The two cases, while separate, both involve Daniels, who was paid $130,000 for signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in 2016 ahead of the presidential election so that she would not speak about an alleged one-night affair she had with Trump in 2006. The NDA was facilitated by Trump’s then-attorney, Michael Cohen.
While Trump has consistently denied the affair took place, on Tuesday, Trump posted on TruthSocial, writing that it was a “totally legal $130,000 NDA.”
The legal fees ordered on Tuesday comes on top of more than $500,000 Daniels was previously ordered to pay to cover the former president’s legal fees. That includes the $293,000 she was ordered to pay in March 2022 after a federal appeals court rejected her request to overturn a lower court decision regarding the 2018 defamation suit. Daniels was also ordered to pay $245,000 in fees after losing another appeal.
In a Twitter post late Tuesday, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., wrote: “[T]he 9th Circuit just awarded Trump $121,962.56 in attorney fees from Stormy Daniels. Order just released. This in addition to the roughly $500k she already owes him. LOL glad she’s out there saying her T-shirt sales are booming she’ll be able to afford to pay Trump!”
Failed Defamation Suit
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump for defamation after the then-president posted on Twitter a post that showed a photo of her and her ex-husband, adjacent to a composite sketch Daniels commissioned that showed a mystery man. The post, shared in April 2018, reads: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
Daniels had claimed that five years after the alleged affair, in 2011, after an interview with In Touch Magazine was published in which she alleged she had the affair with Trump, she and her daughter were threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot by the mystery man, who told her to keep quiet about the alleged affair. The man reportedly said, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story” and “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
District Judge S. James Otero, dismissed Daniels’ defamation suit in October 2018. He ruled that Trump’s tweet was “rhetorical hyperbole” against a political adversary and was protected speech under the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech.
Otero previously ordered Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees. But Daniels appealed the order, arguing the fees were too high. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday determined that Daniels’ “argument that the fee request is unreasonable and excessive is not well-founded.”
Trump had requested another $5,150.00 in fees for 10 hours of work preparing the fee reply, but the appeals court denied it because the fees were “not accompanied by a detailed itemization of the tasks performed each date and the amount of time spent on each task,” nor did Trump “identify the attorneys who worked on the fee reply or the hourly rates that were billed,” according to the order (pdf).
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