Federal appeals court rejects Stormy Daniels libel case against Trump
A federal appeals court has rejected a libel lawsuit against President Trump by adult film star Stormy Daniels over a tweet Trump posted about her in 2018.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled in favor of Trump, whose lawyers argued that the president’s 2018 tweet amounted to an opinion about another user’s post and not a factual claim.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, argued that the tweet damaged her reputation by painting her as a liar.
The tweet expressed doubt about Daniels’s accusation that she had been intimidated in a casino parking lot before going public about an alleged sexual relationship between herself and Trump.
During the 2016 campaign, Michael Cohen, Trump’s now-disgraced former personal attorney, at the time allegedly arranged to pay Daniels $130,000 to insist that she did not have sex with the now-president.
During a “60 Minutes” interview in 2018, she went public with her story.
The tweet issued by Trump commented on a user’s post comparing a sketch that Daniels helped create of her alleged intimidator to a picture of her husband.
Trump tweeted on April 18, 2018: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!.”
A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)! https://t.co/9Is7mHBFda
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
“Viewed through the eyes of an objectively reasonable reader, the tweet here reflects Mr. Trump’s opinion about the implications of the allegedly similar appearances of Ms. Clifford’s ex-husband and the man in the sketch,” the court said in its nine-page ruling.
The court added that Trump’s tweet “plainly concerns the similarities between the sketch and the photograph” of Daniels’s ex-husband.
“Because the tweet juxtaposing the two images was displayed immediately below Mr. Trump’s tweet, the reader was provided with the information underlying the allegedly defamatory statement and was free to draw his or her own conclusions,” the judges wrote.
Daniels also alleged in the libel case that the tweet amounted to a denial of their sexual encounter. However, the judges ruled that the president’s tweet itself did not amount to a public denial.
Trump has denied he had a sexual encounter with Daniels on other occasions.