Lawyers for President Trump asked a court Monday for nearly $800,000 in lawyers' fees and penalties from porn actress Stormy Daniels for a failed defamation lawsuit against him. Attorney Charles Harder defended ringing 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 of frivolous defamation cases." Judge S. James Otero didn't immediately rule. He noted that fees by Harder's firm—as high as $840 an hour—were reasonable but the 580 hours spent on the case appeared to be excessive and might be trimmed in his eventual award, the AP reports. He didn't indicate how he felt about the requested penalties, but had questioned whether attorneys' fees alone would serve as a deterrent.
Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti objected vehemently, calling the figure "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, who says she had a one-night affair with Trump in 2006, sued the president for defamation after he tweeted about her allegation that a man years later warned her to keep quiet. Trump said a sketch she released was of a "nonexistent" person and called the allegation a "total con job." Otero ruled in October that Trump's statement was "rhetorical hyperbole" against a political adversary and was protected speech under the First Amendment. Daniels has appealed Otero's decision and Avenatti said Monday he expects to prevail at a higher court. (Things turned ugly last week between Daniels and Avenatti.)