US judge tosses out Stormy Daniels defamation suit against Trump

Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims to have slept with US President Donald Trump over a decade ago, talks with a journalist during an interview at the Berlin fair "Venus" in Berlin on October 11, 2018. (AFP / dpa / Ralf Hirschberger)
Updated 16 October 2018
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US judge tosses out Stormy Daniels defamation suit against Trump

LOS ANGELES: President Donald Trump scored a legal victory Monday against porn star Stormy Daniels when a federal US judge rejected her defamation suit against him.
Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — still has a separate lawsuit against the president linked to $130,000 in hush money she was paid by Trump’s lawyer shortly before the November 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about an alleged affair.
US District Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles tossed out the defamation suit Daniels filed earlier this year after Trump claimed on Twitter that the adult film actress had invented threats to silence her over her claims the pair slept together more than a decade ago.
“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 United States,” Otero wrote in his ruling.
“The First Amendment (of the US Constitution) protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
Trump’s lawyer Charles Harder called the ruling a “total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels.”
Otero ruled that the billionaire Trump is entitled to have his lawyers’ fees paid as part of the ruling.
The amount will be determined later, Harder said.
Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti — who has strongly suggested he is ready to take on Trump in the 2020 elections — later posted on his Twitter account a notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit court.

Daniels sued after Trump tweeted in April about her release of a sketch of a man she said warned her in a Las Vegas parking lot not to talk about their tryst.
“A sketch years later about a nonexistent man,” Trump tweeted. “A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it!),” Trump tweeted.
The president’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations in the form of hush payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump.
He said he had paid them at Trump’s request.
Although Cohen did not name the women, they were believed to be Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Because the hush payments were intended to influence the outcome of the elections, they violated US laws governing campaign contributions, making Trump an — as yet — unindicted co-conspirator.
The president’s story about Cohen’s payments has changed multiple times.
In September, Cohen’s lawyer said that, following the August guilty plea, Cohen provided “critical information” to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded.
Separately, Trump was sued for defamation in 2017 by Summer Zervos, who was a contestant on Trump’s former reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
She claims Trump lied when responding to her allegations that he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2007.
US media reported in September that Trump would provide sworn written responses in the case.
jt-ban/it/mdl


Bottles, chili paste thrown as Sri Lanka parliament descends into farce

Sri Lanka's police members protect parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya (in a black jacket, C) as he tries to walk to his chair while parliament members who are backing newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa protest during the parliament session in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 16, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 min 25 sec ago
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Bottles, chili paste thrown as Sri Lanka parliament descends into farce

  • Rajapaksa loses confidence vote; second one in three days
  • PM Rajapaksa's backers try to block no confidence vote

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s parliament descended into chaos for a second day on Friday as lawmakers supporting newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa threw books, chili paste and water bottles at the speaker to try to disrupt a second no-confidence motion.
The vote went ahead anyway and for a second time lawmakers gave Rajapaksa and his new government the thumbs down, potentially strengthening the hand of Wickremesinghe, who is seeking to return as prime minister.
Wickremesinghe was removed by President Maithripala Sirisena late last month and replaced with Rajapaksa, plunging the island off India’s southeast coast into political turmoil.
Rajapaksa is seen as a close ally of China, though Beijing has denied accusations that it was instrumental in getting him appointed.
Wickremesinghe said “anarchy” could result if the president did not recognize the second non-confidence vote. He was speaking to foreign correspondents at the prime minister’s official residence, which he has refused to vacate.
“We have the majority,” he earlier told reporters. “We can form our government and we will act accordingly.”
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene, from Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, said the president had rejected the second vote . Sirisena’s office did not respond to calls seeking comment.
With parliament scheduled to reconvene on Monday, Sirisena appears faced with the choice of either reappointing Wickremesinghe, whom he has said he will not bring back, or allowing the crisis to fester.
Rajapaksa’s camp demanded an early election.
“We shall continue to agitate till an early election is called. We are thrown into anarchy,” Rajapaksa loyalist Keheliya Rambukwella said, accusing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of being biased and acting on behalf of Western nations.
Sirisena dissolved parliament last week and called elections, but the Supreme Court ordered a suspension of that decree on Tuesday until it had heard petitions challenging the move as unconstitutional.

BOOKS, BROKEN CHAIRS
Earlier on Friday, Rajapaksa supporters poured on to the floor of parliament, surrounding the speaker’s chair, and demanded the arrest of two lawmakers from Wickremesinghe’s party for allegedly bringing knives into the house on Thursday.
A member of parliament from Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna party sat on Jayasuriya’s chair surrounded by more than 20 lawmakers, delaying the start of proceedings. Rajapaksa loyalists then tried to prevent Jayasuriya from sitting on a second chair brought in by police.
One MP then pulled out the cushion of the second chair and hurled both toward policeman guarding the speaker.
When Jayasuriya eventually started calling out names while standing — under a heavy police presence for the first time in parliamentary history — to know whom MPs supported, Rajapaksa supporters bombarded him with books, chili paste and water bottles.
Three lawmakers and at least six police were injured, parliament medical staff said.
The speaker’s office informed Sirisena in a letter that 122 MPs of the 225 lawmakers signed the no-confidence motion, the same margin as in Wednesday’s first vote.
Sirisena had called for the second vote after rejecting the first.
Sources close to the leadership have said Sirisena’s decision to sack Wickremesinghe came after the prime minister’s party rejected the president’s request to back him for second five-year term in 2020. They also split over whether to back Chinese or Indian investors in various projects, the sources said.
India and Western countries have requested Sirisena act in line with the constitution while raising concerns over Rajapaksa’s close ties with China. Beijing loaned Sri Lanka billions of dollars for infrastructure projects when Rajapaksa was president between 2005-2015.
Tourism accounts for nearly 5 percent of the economy and is a key main foreign exchange earner, along with the garment and tea industries, and remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad.