Trump attorneys ask Stormy Daniels to pay nearly $800G in legal fees, penalties

Attorneys for President Trump asked a court Monday for nearly $800,000 in lawyers’ fees and penalties from adult-film actress Stormy Daniels for the failed defamation lawsuit against him.

Attorney Charles Harder defended more than 500 hours his firm spent that rang up a nearly $390,000 legal bill for the president and asked for an equal amount in sanctions as a deterrent against a “repeat filer or frivolous defamation cases.”

Harder said the fees and penalties were earned because of the extraordinary nature of the defamation case.

“This action is virtually unprecedented in American legal history,” Harder wrote in court papers. Daniels “not only brought a meritless claim for defamation against the sitting president of the United States, but she also has engaged, along with her attorney, in massive national publicity.”

Judge S. James Otero didn’t immediately rule. He noted that Harder’s fees — as much as $840 an hour — were reasonable but the number of hours spent on the case was excessive. He didn’t indicate how he felt about the requested penalties, but he questioned whether attorneys’ fees alone would serve as a deterrent.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, called the suggested sanctions “absurd and outrageous.”

“You can’t just pick a number out of thin air in an effort to put my client under Donald Trump’s thumb and intimidate her,” Avenatti said.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleged she had a one-night affair with Trump in 2006. She sued him earlier this year seeking to break a non-disclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 election about the tryst as part of a $130,000 hush money settlement. Trump has strongly denied the affair took place.

Despite the deal to stay quiet, Daniels spoke out publicly and alleged that five years after the alleged affair she was threatened to keep quiet by a man she did not recognize in a Las Vegas parking lot. She also released a composite sketch of the mystery man.

She sued Trump for defamation after he responded to the allegation by tweeting: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

Otero ruled in October that Trump’s statement was “rhetorical hyperbole” against a political adversary and was protected speech under the First Amendment. Trump is entitled to legal fees, Otero said.

Daniels has appealed Otero’s decision and Avenatti said Monday he expects to prevail at a higher court.

Avenatti, who has positioned himself as a Trump foe and is considering a run for president in 2020, also said he will be seeking attorney’s fees against Trump in the ongoing hush-money case and he anticipates being rewarded a figure that “dwarfs exponentially” what Trump is seeking in the defamation case, possibly exceeding $2 million.

Daniels also revealed Sunday that she and Avenatti "straightened s--- out" days after she questioned the origin of a fundraising appeal Avenatti launched on her behalf -- and revealed that he'd sued Trump for defamation without her approval.

Daniels told the Daily Beast on Wednesday that Avenatti had launched the campaign on the website CrowdJustice "without my permission or even my knowledge," after she questioned him about how money raised through an initial fundraiser had been spent. The initial fundraiser brought in a reported $580,000 toward Daniels' expenses; the second fundraiser brought in $4,785 before the page was taken down Wednesday evening.

Avenatti also tweeted: "Onward and upward. To all the people that want to divide us for their own agendas: It is not going to happen!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.