Judge awards Trump lawyers nearly $300,000 in Stormy Daniels case

A California federal judge awarded attorneys for President Donald Trump nearly $300,000 in fees Tuesday related to a failed defamation claim brought by porn star Stephanie Clifford.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero directed Clifford to pay $293,052.33 to Trump's lawyers, concluding that the attorneys were entitled to most – but not all – of the $389,403.11 they had sought.

Otero said Trump's firm could have relied more on "highly qualified associates" for the legal work than partners who charged higher fees.

"Defendant could have streamlined litigation by distributing more work to
the junior associates," the judge ruled. "Second, the descriptions of the work performed suggest that the hours spent on tasks by (Trump's) attorneys were excessive."

Stormy Daniels and attorney Michael Avenatti speak to reporters April 16, 2018, in New York.

Clifford, known by her stage name Stormy Daniels, brought her claim after Trump sent out a tweet dismissing comments she had made in broadcast interviews.

When Daniels said in a TV interview that a man had confronted her in 2011 after alleging an affair with Trump in an attempt to silence her, the president tweeted that the person who made the threats was a “non-existent man” and that her allegation was a “total con job.”

Otero had earlier indicated that the tweet was protected as free speech since it related to a matter of public concern and involved public figures.

Daniels was “in the process of making her story known to the world,” Otero said. He said the president’s tweets appeared to be “hyperbole that would be protected.”

Such speech “lies at the heart of the First Amendment” and to try to restrict it would have a “chilling effect on candidates running for office," the judge said. 

Attorneys for Daniels argued that Trump’s tweet was false.

More:How Donald Trump's explanation of his role with Michael Cohen and the hush money payments has changed

More:Feds: Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should get 'substantial prison term'

More:Stormy Daniels says Avenatti filed defamation suit against Trump 'against my wishes'