The Memo: Trump fuels GOP’s midterm momentum
Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation
A federal judge on Monday said that a tweet by President Trump at the center of Stormy Daniels's defamation lawsuit against Trump was "rhetorical hyperbole" rather than defamation.
"This appears to be rhetorical hyperbole by a public official involving a public figure," U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said at a hearing Monday, according to Bloomberg News.
Otero didn't issue a ruling Monday, but Bloomberg and The Associated Press reported that his comments could signal he is leaning toward throwing out the lawsuit because Trump's tweet was protected speech.
Daniels, the adult-film star, filed the suit in April over a tweet Trump sent that month regarding a sketch that Daniels released of a man that she says approached her and her infant daughter in a parking lot and threatened her.
Trump wrote on Twitter that the situation was "a total con job" and shared a tweet that compared the sketch to a photo of Daniels's ex-husband, suggesting that the two are the same person.
Daniels's lawsuit alleges that Trump's tweet amounted to defamation because it accused her of fabricating the incident and that in posting the tweet, Trump knew that Daniels "would be subjected to threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage."
Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder, argued Monday that Trump's tweet was his way of "calling B.S." on Daniels's claim, not a statement of fact, according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg also reported that Otero said Monday that he would hold a hearing in December over a separate lawsuit that Daniels has brought against Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen over a $130,000 payment made to Daniels before the 2016 election as part of a nondisclosure agreement. Daniels has challenged the validity of that payment, which was made to keep her claims of a past affair with Trump quiet.
Cohen pleaded guilty last month to a count of making an excessive campaign contribution on Oct. 27, 2016, the same date Cohen finalized the payment to Daniels. Cohen implicated Trump in the charge, saying that he made the payment at the direction of a then-candidate.