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An attorney for President Donald Trump has asked a judge to throw out a defamation lawsuit filed against Trump by Stormy Daniels, alleging the adult film star is trying to suppress Trump’s right to free speech by suing him, and that she can’t prove she suffered damages from a Trump tweet anyway.
Daniels sued Trump in April after he suggested on Twitter that Daniels had lied when she alleged an unknown man had threatened her. Trump tweeted that a sketch of the man released by Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, was of “a nonexistent man” and a “total con job.”
Trump attorney Charles Harder asked a federal judge late Monday to toss the defamation suit, arguing that the president’s tweet is an opinion protected by the First Amendment, and said the Daniels suit “is designed to chill the President’s free speech rights on matters of public concern.”
“Politicians, in the course of public debate, are entitled to enter the debate and express their beliefs, including their disbeliefs, of the claims of their adversaries. Plaintiff is a vocal adversary of the President; she and her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, acting on her behalf, have publicly attacked the President in more than 140 television news appearances in the past five months,” says the motion.
“Mr. Avenatti feels his attacks on the President (while acting on Plaintiff’s behalf) have been so effective that he now is exploring a run for Presidency of the United States himself.”
The motion also notes that Daniel’s disputes with the president and her claim she was threatened by an unidentified man acting on Trump’s behalf are “a major part of her publicity campaign attacking the President, touring strip clubs, and generating profits to her.”
Daniels says she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago, and Trump attorney Michael Cohen has acknowledged he paid her $130,000 as part of a non-disclosure agreement in October 2016, just days before the presidential election.
Last week Cohen pleaded guilt to a campaign finance violation for the $130,000 payment, and told the court he had made the payment at the direction “of a federal candidate,” meaning Trump.
The motion states that Trump denies the affair occurred, echoing prior statements from the White House.
Harder asked for a Sept. 24 hearing before the judge, S. James Otero, on his motion to dismiss. Otero is already scheduled to hear from both sides in Daniels bid to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement she said she signed with Trump. The defamation suit is separate from the suit Daniels filed in March to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement.