Adult film star Stormy Daniels took the world by storm when she alleged that Donald Trump had an affair with her back in 2006. Not only was Donald already married to Melania at the time, but their son, Barron Trump, had just been born.
At the heart of Daniels’ claims was that she was paid a hefty sum to keep quiet about the affair with Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Now, though, a court has ruled that Daniels owes Donald Trump money. In fact, she owes him a whopping $300,000!
But what’s the real reason she owes this money, and how did we get here in the first place? Keep reading to discover legal drama worth an entire season of Law and Order!
It all started with Stormy Daniels’ hush money claims
Stormy Daniels claims that she was paid hush money to keep quiet about the affair. As NBC News reports, she was paid $130,000 by Michael Cohen, a since-disgraced lawyer who was then working for Donald Trump.
These details came to light via The Wall Street Journal in January 2018. While the world reeled from these allegations, Donald Trump maintained the entire time that he never had sex with Stormy Daniels. He maintains that to this day, though there have been several more developments between the initial allegations and the present day.
Daniels prevailed in her first lawsuit against Trump
Stormy Daniels’ original courtroom battle started in March 2018. That was when she sued Donald Trump, claiming that a nondisclosure agreement she had signed with Michael Cohen was invalid because Trump never signed it (via NBC News). The agreement forbid her from discussing her “intimate” relationship with Trump.
In March 2019, the lawsuit was dismissed when Trump agreed not to enforce the NDA against Daniels. Then, in August 2020, a judge ruled that Trump owed Daniels $44,000 for her legal fees. Had Daniels stopped there, she would be very much ahead.
However, she sued Trump a second time in April 2018, this time for defamation. And the fallout from that case would eventually lead to her owing Donald Trump $300,000! What’s worse, Daniels claims her then-lawyer Michael Avenatti filed the defamation lawsuit against her wishes!
But Daniels lost her defamation suit against Trump
Why did Daniels sue Trump a second time? It starts with her claims in 2018 that she and her daughter were once threatened to keep quiet about the affair with Donald Trump. According to NBC News, she claimed she was in Las Vegas with her infant daughter when a mysterious man told her to “leave Trump alone.” This mystery figure allegedly went on to say, “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”
Eventually, Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, released a sketch of what this mystery man looked like. Trump responded to this sketch with his usual grace and compassion. Specifically, he took to Twitter and said the following: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
Daniels took Trump to court over this, calling it a “false and defamatory” statement in her lawsuit. Since Trump was both a famous celebrity and a sitting United States president, the lawsuit claims that Daniels “would be subjected to threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage as a result.”
She lost the case, though, when a federal judge decided Trump’s statement was the kind of “rhetorical hyperbole” protected by the First Amendment. Daniels appealed this decision and lost, but not before her original lawyer’s life effectively imploded!
Michael Avenatti stole nearly $300,000 from Stormy Daniels
For a brief span, Michael Avenatti became a household name. This was Daniels’ lawyer, and he became famous as a firebrand lawyer willing to take on Donald Trump by representing Stormy Daniels.
Initially, Daniels hired Avenatti to help her speak out against Trump despite receiving $130,000 in hush money. And as both Daniels and Avenatti became more famous, it looked like the lawyer was going to really make his career out of all this. Instead, he ended up destroying his career!
In February 2022, Avenatti was found guilty of stealing nearly $300,000 from Daniels (via Sky News). The money was part of an $800,000 advance payment from Daniels’ book publisher for her autobiography. According to Daniels, Avenatti told her he never received this portion of the advance from the publisher, while diverting the funds to his own account.
“I fired Avenatti in February of 2019 when I discovered he forged my name and embezzled my book funds,” Daniels tweeted. Avenatti was convicted of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, and faces up to 22 years in prison. He is due to be sentenced on June 2.
Avenatti has decided to appeal this verdict, though prosecutors allege that he’s already spent the money he swindled. And, in an ironic twist, he stole almost the exact amount of money that Daniels now owes Donald Trump! But perhaps more alarming is Daniels’ claim that she owes Trump money due to Avenatti’s negligence.
Stormy Daniels blames Avenatti for why she owes Trump $300,000
After being found guilty of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his client, you might think Michael Avenatti was done hurting Stormy Daniels. But to hear her tell the story, that’s not the case.
According to Daniels in a statement on Twitter, “Avenatti filed the [defamation] lawsuit [in 2018] without my permission and against my wishes.” When Avenatti lost the case, she was “left the victim of an attorney’s fee award.” In other words, she was ordered to pay for Trump’s $300,000 legal fees in the defamation case.
Daniels appealed the decision, but on March 21, 2022, a federal appeals court ruled to uphold the judge’s order for her to pay Trump $300,000 (via CNBC).
“Avenatti appealed the ruling,” Daniels wrote, “but failed to timely appeal the attorney’s fee award.”
“To be clear: Trump won yesterday ON A TECHNICALITY due to Avenatti’s failure to file promptly.”
In a statement, Trump called the ruling “a total and complete victory and vindication for, and of me.” He added, “Now all I have to do is wait for all of the money she owes me.”
But Trump might be waiting for a while, because Daniels tweeted, “I will go to jail before I pay a penny.”