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Michael Avenatti is an American attorney best known for formerly representing Storm Daniels in legal proceedings against United States President Donald Trump.
Stormy Daniels's Lawsuit Against Donald Trump
Michael Avenatti rose to public prominence representing Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor and director, who sued President Trump in a bid to void a non-disclosure agreement regarding a prior sexual encounter.
In a lawsuit filed March 6th, 2018 to a Los Angeles court, adult film actor Stormy Daniels claims that the hush agreement she had with Trump is non-binding because Trump never signed the document. Attached to the lawsuit is the full hush agreement negotiated between Trump, Daniels, and Cohen. The agreement uses pseudonyms--Trump's pseudonym is "David Dennison" and Daniels' is "Peggy Peterson." A side letter agreement reveals the true names. "David Dennison" did not sign the agreement as "Peggy Peterson" had on October 28th, 2016. Because of this omission, Daniels believes she is free to discuss the affair she had with Trump.
The inclusion of Trump in the agreement undermines Cohen's claim that he had paid the hush money out of his own pocket without Trump's knowledge. Additionally, the lawsuit came one day after The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen's payment to Daniels was marked as suspicious by the Treasury Department and that Cohen had privately complained that he had not been reimbursed for the hush money.
The morning of March 7th, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti appeared on The Today Show to discuss the lawsuit. He alleged that Daniels and Trump did have an affair and argued it was "ludicrous" for Cohen to suggest Trump did not know about the payment.
savannahguthrie</a>'s full interview with Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer <a href="https://t.co/8koWFXvYh1">pic.twitter.com/8koWFXvYh1</a></p>— TODAY (TODAYshow) March 7, 2018
Fight With Donald Trump Jr.
On October 9th, 2018, NBC News media reporter Dylan Byers tweeted that Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti proposed a three-round mixed martial arts fight with Donald Trump Jr., with all proceeds going to charity (shown below, left). That day, Avenatti tweeted "I'm in" and that 50% of his portion of the proceeds would be directed to "rebuiling Puerto Rico" and 50% would go toward the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN (shown below, right).
Avenatti is known for his brash personality and willingness to respond to criticism and insults. On April 7th, 2018, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled "Trump meets his match: Stormy Daniels' combative lawyer Michael Avenatti." They wrote:
"Michael Avenatti, the newly famous lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, has more than a few things in common with President Trump.
He's brash. He's media savvy. He enjoys the high life. He revels in antagonizing opponents.
In short, Trump may have met his match in this Newport Beach lawyer whose client, now America's best-known stripper, is suing the president to break free of a deal that bars her from discussing what she says was a one-night stand with Trump in 2006.
With a swagger worthy of the young Trump who barged his way into New York's tabloids decades ago, Avenatti has spent weeks shuttling among Manhattan TV studios to taunt the president and his fixer Michael Cohen.
His pugnacious edge makes Avenatti a natural on cable news."
"White Male" Comments
On October 25th, 2018, Avenatti was quoted in a Time magazine profile on his potential 2020 presidential bid saying that the 2020 candidate "better be a white male." He said:
"I think it better be a white male. When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes."
That day, Avenatti's comments and his character were the subject of much criticism on Twitter, where people expressed their disappointment and negative impression of the lawyer (examples below).
Avenatti later claimed that he had been "misquoted" in the profile. He said:
"I was misquoted, and it was taken out of context."
"A big tenet of my speeches is that we need more white men standing up and speaking up to defend women and minorities. When they do that, it carries weight among other white men."
Domestic Violence Arrest
On November 14th, 2018, TMZ reported that Avenatti had been arrested by LAPD officers for domestic violence after allegedly leaving his estranged wife "swollen and bruised." According to the article, his wife ran out of his apartment while yelling "I can't believe you did this to me" while talking on her cellphone. Avenatti allegedly chased after her while yelling "she hit me first" and "this is bullshit."
That day, BuzzFeed News reporter Brandon Wall tweeted that Avenatti had been "arrested for domestic violence" and was in police custody in Los Angeles (shown below).
The following day, Avenatti posted a tweet calling out Jacob Wohl and Surefire Intelligence (shown below).
Nike Extortion Arrest and Bank Fraud Charges
On March 25th, 2019, Avenatti was arrested for attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike, threatening that if he did not receive the payment, he would release damaging information on the company. It later came out that his co-conspirator was Mark Geragos, who represents Colin Kaepernick, a Nike-sponsored athlete. The day prior to his arrest, Avenatti tweeted that he would be holding a press conference regarding a scandal about Nike (shown below). He also faces charges of bank fraud and wire fraud in California, after allegedly embezzling a client's money to pay his own debts.
Stormy Daniels responded to the news by saying she was "saddened but not shocked" by the arrest (shown below). The two had ended their legal relationship a month prior. If convicted in New York, Avenatti could face a maximum of 50 years in prison.
On April 11th, 2019, federal prosecutors in California announced "the filing of a 36-count indictment naming Michael Avenatti." These charges included hiding a $4 million settlement from a mentally ill paraplegic person. If convicted on all charges, Avenatti faces a maximum of 335 years in prison. Avenatti tweeted “I am entitled to a FULL presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once ALL of the facts are known,” but the tweet has since been deleted.
On April 29th, Avenatti pleaded not guilty to all charges and a trial date was set for June 25th. He has yet to secure legal council.
Nate Silver joked that Avenatti was in a race with Jacob Wohl to see who could commit the most crimes (shown below, left). Ben Shapiro also compared Avenatti to Wohl in a joke saying they would end up in their own version of Orange Is the New Black (shown belo, right).
Relation to NXVIM Cult Case
On March 27th, 2019, the judge in the NXVIM case, Nicholas Garaufis, asked the defense team of Claire Bronfam, heiress to the Seagrams liquor heiress accused of bankrolling the cult, if they had been in contact with Avenatti. Bronfam's lawyer is Mark Geragos, who had recently been implicated in the Avenatti arrest on the Nike extortion charge, admitted that he had been in contact with Avenatti about joining the case. The stress caused Bronfam to faint and carried out of the courtroom in a stretcher. The judge then ordered court to reconvene as he grilled the defense on the lawyers involved in the case. After she returned to court, Bronfam admitted to briefly retaining Avenatti before hiring Geragos after finding him online.
Stormy Daniels Fraud Charges
On May 22nd, 2019, Avenatti was charged with using a doctored document to divert $300,000 due to Daniels from a book deal to himself to pay personal and business expenses. On Twitter, Avenatti denied the charges, saying, "No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman stated, "Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client." When Avenatti was indicted on defrauding Nike, Daniels had stated she was “saddened but not shocked" and that she had fired Avenatti a month earlier after “discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly.”
 MSNBC – Daniels Lawsuit
 ThinkProgress – Stormy Daniels goes nuclear on Trump, reveals all in new lawsuit
 Wall Street Journal – Trump Lawyer’s Payment to Stormy Daniels Was Reported as Suspicious by Bank
 LA Times – Trump meets his match: Stormy Daniels' combative lawyer Michael Avenatti
 Time – Michael Avenatti's Past Won't Stop Him From Running in 2020
 CNN Michael Avenatti to Time: 2020 Democratic nominee 'better be a white male'
 TMZ – Michael Avenatti Arrested for Felony Domestic Violence
 Twitter – @MichaelAvenatti
 CNN – Michael Avenatti charged with trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike
 CNN – Charges against Michael Avenatti for trying to extort Nike
 New York Times – Michael Avenatti Accused in Nike Extortion Attempt
 Gothamist – Because The Nxivm Sex Cult Case Wasn't Wild Enough, Michael Avenatti Got Involved
 New York Post – Clare Bronfman says she fired Avenatti, found Geragos instead online for Nxivm trial
 ABC News – Feds to file new charges against Michael Avenatti
 LA Times – Avenatti indicted on 36 charges of tax dodging, perjury, theft from clients
 CBS – Michael Avenatti Pleads Not Guilty To Embezzling Millions From Clients
 AP News – Michael Avenatti charged with defrauding Stormy Daniels
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