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Two months after a judge dismissed Stormy Daniels’ frivolous defamation lawsuit against President Trump and ruled that she must fork over his legal fees, Trump’s attorneys have delivered the bill — and it probably won’t help the porn star’s already imploding relationship with her celebrity lawyer, Michael Avenatti.
In a federal court in Los Angeles Monday, Trump’s attorneys said they have racked up over 500 hours of work at rates as high as $840 an hour, NBC News reports. The total bill, they say, comes out to $340,000.
The reason for the high number of hours worked, the president’s legal team says, is Avenatti’s public antics. At the height of Stormy’s accusations against Trump, Avenatti was a seemingly ubiquitous presence on mainstream media outlets, particularly CNN and MSNBC, who during one two-month period invited him on over 100 times between the two networks.
“This action is virtually unprecedented in American legal history,” wrote lead attorney Charles Harder in the filing, NBC notes. Daniels (real name Stephanie Cliffords) not only brought the “meritless” claim against the sitting president of the United States, “she also has engaged, along with her attorney, in massive national publicity,” including giving her strip tour a name referencing the president (“Making America Horny Again”) and writing a memoir all that media coverage helped promote.
Avenatti decried the fees as “staggering and grossly inflated” Monday, insisting that they should not exceed $25,000, NBC reports.
Daniels’ defamation lawsuit, which she recently told the Daily Beast Avenatti filed against her wishes, revolved around a tweet from Trump responding to Daniels and Avenatti presenting a composite sketch of a man she claims attempted to threaten her on Trump’s behalf in a Las Vegas parking lot back in 2013 when she was talking with a publication about telling her story about her alleged one-night affair with Trump.
Upon the big reveal following a media build-up by Avenatti, Trump took to Twitter to mock it. “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” he wrote. “A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)! https://t.co/9Is7mHBFda
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
Daniels sued Trump for defamation over the “con job” comment, a lawsuit she told the Daily Beast last week was Avenatti’s idea.
“I’m tremendously grateful to him for aggressively representing me in my fight to regain my voice,” she said in a statement. “But in other ways Michael has not treated me with the respect and deference an attorney should show to a client. He has spoken on my behalf without my approval. He filed a defamation case against Donald Trump against my wishes.”
In a ruling in October, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero agreed with Trump that the lawsuit was frivolous. “The court agrees with Mr. Trump’s argument because the tweet in question constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ normally associated with politics and public discourse in the U.S.,” said Judge Otero. “The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
The “porn star and the president” saga began with Michael Cohen’s payment of $130,000 in “hush money” to Daniels before the election in 2016 in exchange for her signing a non-disclosure agreement she has since broken and claims was null and void because Trump never signed it. In one of his multiple plea deals, Cohen said he knowingly violated campaign finance law to cover up Trump’s alleged affair.