In a shocking turn of events, Stormy Daniels, the adult film star at the center of a historic criminal indictment against Donald Trump, has been ordered to pay him $122,000 in legal fees for her failed defamation lawsuit. The decision was made by a federal appellate court in California on Tuesday, in a twist of fate, the same day that Trump pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in New York City related to an alleged hush-money payment made to Daniels during his presidential campaign in 2016.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claimed to have had an affair with Trump and sued him for defamation after he dismissed her accusations as a “total con job.” The latest court order covers legal fees that Trump incurred while defending against Daniels’ appeal of a judge’s decision to throw out her lawsuit. Trump’s lawyers argued that sanctions were necessary to deter a “repeat filer of frivolous defamation cases.”
This ruling brings to more than $600,000 the total fee awards obtained by Trump’s lawyers against Daniels. However, Daniels has vowed to go to jail before she pays any money to Trump. When she was hit with an initial order to pay nearly $300,000 in December 2018, her then-lawyer Michael Avenatti claimed that the judgment would “never hold up on appeal.” Avenatti is now serving a prison term for defrauding clients and obstructing collection of taxes from his coffee business.
Trump’s criminal charges in New York City are related to his alleged falsification of business records. Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg alleged that Trump falsely reported the hush-money payment to Daniels as a legal expense to cover up his violation of election laws. To prove this, it would need to be shown that Trump paid Daniels solely to help him win the 2016 presidential race, which would exceed the federal limit for campaign contributions.
Despite the allegations, both the Federal Election Commission and the US Department of Justice found the matter unworthy of pursuing, likely because Trump would have had other potential reasons to keep allegations of an affair with Daniels from becoming public. Regardless of the outcome of Trump’s criminal case, Daniels will still be responsible for paying the legal fees incurred by Trump in her defamation lawsuit.
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