President Donald Trump’s chief provocateur has struck again — this time with a lawsuit alleging defamation of adult film star Stormy Daniels.
In what appeared to be an effort to keep her case at the center of the news after a delay in a related case in California, Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, filed a new lawsuit on Daniels’ behalf on Monday. The suit charges that Trump attempted to tarnish her reputation and credibility by dismissing her account — and subsequent description — of a man who threatened her in 2011, at a time when she was considering whether to reveal her alleged affair with Trump.
The lawsuit filed Monday by Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, in federal court in New York targets Trump’s tweet on April 18 dismissing a composite sketch of a man who the adult film star says threatened her over her alleged affair with Trump more than a decade ago.
In that tweet, Trump called the composite sketch “a total con job.” The lawsuit says Daniels suffered damages in excess of $75,000.
“By calling the incident a ‘con job,’ Mr. Trump’s statement would be understood to state that Ms. Clifford was fabricating the crime and the existence of the assailant, both of which are prohibited under New York law, as well as the law of numerous other states,” Avenatti wrote in the lawsuit.
“It was apparent that Mr. Trump meant to convey that Ms. Clifford is a liar, someone who should not be trusted, that her claims about the threatening encounter are false, and that she was falsely accusing the individual depicted in the sketch of committing a crime, where no crime had been committed. … Mr. Trump made his statement either knowing it was false, had serious doubts about the truth of his statement, or made the statement with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.”
The suit is separate from another lawsuit in which Daniels is suing Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, over the legality of a 2016 hush agreement in which she was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about the alleged affair with Trump.
The President, who is also a defendant in that lawsuit, has denied any sexual encounter between the two. Daniels also has sued Cohen for defamation.
When asked about why it was necessary to file defamation suits in two different legal jurisdictions, Avenatti told CNN that “it wasn’t by accident” that they decided to file a separate defamation suit against Trump on Monday in New York. He declined, however, to explain the thinking behind his strategy.
“I’m not at liberty to get into that. But it wasn’t by accident,” he said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.
Avenatti said the suggestion that Daniels’ latest case is a media ploy is “absolutely baseless, absurd, moronic and ridiculous.”
“We did not force the President to issue this defamatory tweet,” Avenatti said, referring to Trump’s tweet on April 18.
“We stated immediately after it was issued that we were going to be bringing this claim either in the LA case or in a separate matter. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
A California judge last week halted Daniels’ lawsuit against Cohen for 90 days while a criminal investigation of him moves forward in New York.
Avenatti has said they plan to file an appeal.