Supreme Court Rejects Stormy Daniels’s Defamation Lawsuit Against Trump

February 22, 2021 Updated: February 22, 2021

The Supreme Court on Feb. 22 turned down hearing a defamation lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels against former President Donald Trump.

Daniels sued Trump in 2018 and alleged that he defamed her. Trump previously publicly denied her previous allegations amid heavy media coverage of Daniels’s claims.

The Supreme Court (pdf) didn’t offer an explanation for why it dismissed the case.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed the lawsuit after Trump ridiculed a sketch of a man who she said threatened her in 2011 about her claims about Trump.

Trump at the time in 2018 reposted a woman’s tweet featuring the sketch alongside a photo of Stormy Daniels’s husband, Glendon Crain, whom the woman said resembled the sketch. Trump wrote: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

Daniels’s suit pertained to the former president’s tweet, which was deleted along with Trump’s account last month by Twitter.

Daniels’s lawsuit was rejected in lower courts before it reached the nation’s highest court.

The case was dismissed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated that because his “tweet could not reasonably be read as asserting that Ms. Clifford committed a crime, this theory of defamation is not viable.”

“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 9th Circuit panel wrote, adding that Trump’s social media remark was an “an opinion” and said that “statements of opinion cannot form the basis of a defamation claim.”

The court also rejected Daniels’s allegation that Trump’s “con job” reference was tantamount to accusing her of fraud.

“It would be clear to a reasonable reader that the tweet was not accusing Clifford of actually committing criminal activity,” the opinion said. “Instead, as used in this context, the term ‘con job’ could not be interpreted as anything more than a colorful expression of rhetorical hyperbole.”

Daniels, who is now 41, was previously represented by lawyer Michael Avenatti, who claimed he would run for president in 2020 but was convicted last year for attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike. His sentencing is in May.

Also on Feb. 22, the Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s taxes and other financial records can be released to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the assertion that his taxes should be reviewed was done in bad faith and amounted to overreach.

The case is Clifford v. Trump, 20-602.