The lawsuit from Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, asked for damages stemming from statements from Trump calling her a liar for claims that she was paid to keep quiet about their extramarital relationship before the 2016 election. Judge Otero ruled that Trump’s speech was protected by the First Amendment as the kind of “rhetorical hyperbole” normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States.
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen plead guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws in order to make the $130,000 payment to Clifford, and accused the president of ordering him to make the payment.
The ruling is a blow for Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who has raised his national profile from his legal battles against the president and is contemplating a presidential bid in 2020.
Avenatti called the ruling “limited” on Twitter and said it did not affect Daniels’s primary case against Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen, which seeks to invalidate her 2016 nondisclosure agreement.