After an October ruling found porn actress Stormy Daniels responsible for legal fees in her failed defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump, the president’s lawyers have come to collect – and they’re hungry.
Attorney Charles Harder is seeking almost $390,000 in lawyers’ fees and tacking on another $390,000 in sanctions to stop Daniels and her attorney Michael Avenatti from filing similarly baseless suits in the future, he told a federal judge in Los Angeles on Monday.
Trump’s legal team has worked over 500 hours on the case, billing rates as high as $840 per hour. Fallen media darling Avenatti objected to the sum, calling it “obscene and outrageous” and insisting the amount should not exceed $25,000.
Daniels and Avenatti raised over half a million dollars on crowdfunding sites while they were still hogging the airwaves on CNN, where Avenatti quickly became the station’s most-booked guest for his reliable Trump-bashing soundbytes.
Daniels sued Trump for defamation after he mocked a tweet of hers earlier this year in which she claimed to have been intimidated by a “mystery man” supposedly sent by Trump to enforce the non-disclosure agreement she signed to keep silent about their past trysts.
US District Court Judge S. James Otero threw out the suit in October, calling the president’s statement, which referred to Daniels as a “con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools,” mere “rhetorical hyperbole” directed at a political opponent and therefore protected under the First Amendment. Otero also awarded Trump legal fees.
Harder pointed out that not only did Avenatti and Daniels attempt to bring a “meritless claim for defamation” against a sitting US president, but they parlayed the case into a moneymaking vehicle, milking it for countless television appearances, a book deal, and a nationwide strip club tour.
“This action is virtually unprecedented in American legal history,” he said.
There has been a lot of misreporting about the money @StormyDaniels and I raised for her legal costs/expenses. See the real facts below. As you can see, we did not do this for the money. We did it because it was the right thing to do. And we will continue to do so. #Bastapic.twitter.com/q7DYtpeguv
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) December 3, 2018
Last week, Daniels accused Avenatti of filing the defamation suit against her wishes, adding that he had “spoken on my behalf without my approval” and used her name to start an additional fundraising site.
Avenatti, calling himself “Stormy’s biggest champion,” claimed “a number of things” in her statement were “not accurate.”
Avenatti’s own fall from grace has been swift, beginning with the disintegration of his client Julie Swetnick’s case against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh – which boomeranged into an FBI investigation of Avenatti and Swetnick for three felonies.
Since then, he has accused Fox News’ Tucker Carlson of assaulting a gay Latino man at a country club, been arrested for allegedly beating up his girlfriend, and – perhaps most unforgivably, to his supporters at least – proclaimed that the Democrats’ 2020 nominee should be a “white male” – which he, completely coincidentally, is.
While he had raised some money for Democratic candidates and even traveled to campaign hotspots like New Hampshire and Iowa, he has been noticeably silent about his hopes for a 2020 run since his arrest.