Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer and the world’s most interviewed person in the past 2 months, has had quite the week.
After leaking the financial records of President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen (along with two unrelated Michael Cohens he wrongly accused “possibly fraudulent” payments), people began digging into Avenatti’s past – only to discover a train-wreck of shady business dealings, unpaid taxes, a state-bar complaint, and dozens of lawsuits in the wake of a failed venture in the coffee industry.
And as various media outlets have begun to cover Avenatti – from his dodgy past to criticisms of his legal strategy behind the Stormy Daniels case, the balding bulldog attorney seems to have come a bit unglued.
On Monday, he sent an “insane” email to The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson after he and Joe Simonson reported on a variety of questionable business dealings – using publicly available information, such as a complaint to the California bar claiming his now-defunct venture into the coffee industry dodged millions in taxes after he mislead a business partner (who sued).
— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) May 14, 2018
Avenatti’s threats received an immediate pushback – with CNN’s Ryan Lizza commenting “It seems fair and well-reported to me. If there is something specific that is false Avenatti should point that out rather than threatening the reporters.“
Now, 48 hours later, we learn that Avenatti is at it again – allegedly calling the Hollywood Reporter‘s Eriq Gardner an “asshole” before demanding to speak with Gardner’s editor over an unflattering article questioning the soundness of his legal strategy in the Daniels case.
[M]any lawyers believe Avenatti’s strategy is risky. His argument — Trump didn’t sign the contract with the nondisclosure agreement, so it isn’t valid — isn’t terrible, but it’s no slam dunk. After all, Daniels did accept $130,000 for her silence and hasn’t returned any of it. But if Avenatti ends up losing, the cost to Daniels could be ruinous. One court document suggested the damages might reach $20 million, and that was based on the first leg of the media tour. It could be higher now.
And even as he takes risks for his client, Avenatti seems to be positioning himself for a bright future. Vanity Fair reported that he approached MSNBC president Phil Griffin about getting his own show, although Avenatti later claimed it was the other way around — networks approached him. Regardless, Avenatti’s profile-boosting posturing certainly will be a win for him. “This ceased being about ‘the law’ and ‘her rights’ about three seconds after they filed the lawsuit,” says Robert Schwartz, a litigation partner at Irell & Manella. “There is no meaningful downside. The coverage will drive business to him for years.” –Hollywood Reporter
Gardner said that as he was in the middle of composing the article, Avenatti contacted the Hollywood Reporter “to express concern.”
Well, guess I don’t have to wonder if he’s read it. pic.twitter.com/VFMLP9KURr
— Eriq Gardner (@eriqgardner) May 16, 2018
As I was preparing this column, Avenatti learned that The Hollywood Reporter would be tallying his media appearances (see below) and reached out to an editor to express concern. Avenatti indicated he’d be open to questions so I sent him a half-dozen. Speculating that the result of my assessment of his work wouldn’t exactly be flattering, he called me up and became somewhat menacing. At one point, he called me an “asshole” with an agenda and accused the lawyers I had spoken to of being jealous of his success. This conversation occurred before he threatened to sue a reporter at The Daily Caller [News Foundation] over what he perceived to be “hit pieces.” –Eriq Gardner
On Monay night, CNN‘s Don Lemon interviewed Avenatti about the email exchange with the Daily Caller – to which he said:
All journalists are not ethical just because you’re a journalist. There’s good journalists and there’s bad journalists. There’s ethical journalists and unethical journalists,” Avenatti responded. “And do you know what, Don? If we encounter journalists that don’t get their facts straight by design, don’t follow basic standards of journalism, purposefully skew stories to fit their own political dialogue dialogue and what they want their message to be, we’re going to continue to call them out on that.
Much like in his email to the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson, Avenatti fails to offer any examples of journalists not getting their “facts straight by design.”
Hilariously, the Daily Caller’s Joe Simonson, who co-wrote the article with Hasson, had a Twitter DM conversation with Don Lemon’s boyfriend, Tim Malone – who has been together with the CNN host since at least summer 2017. Malone said Lemon went easy on Avenatti because they’re friends…
Following Lemon’s interview with Avenatti, Tim Malone reached out to me via Twitter direct message to gauge my thoughts on CNN and the controversial lawyer who just threatened a lawsuit against me, my colleague Peter Hasson and my employer.
I asked Malone if he thought his partner, a journalist, should have pushed back on Avenatti more on his assertion that TheDCNF’s report on some of his business history was littered with defamatory statements and was published under orders from President Donald Trump
“I guess, yeah,” Malone, a real estate agent, said before adding that he doesn’t believe Avenatti will follow through on his legal threats.
“Ha, he won’t [sue]. I think it’s all a game. Who knows? Trump threatens lawsuits and never does it, [Avenatti] seems to be using all the same strategies…[he] is doing Trumps [sic] strategy.”
When I told him that I wished “Don would have pushed [Avenatti] more” in their interview, Malone told me to “connect the dots.”
When asked to clarify, he used Fox News host Sean Hannity’s relationship with Trump as an example of other softball interviews.
“Does Hannity push Trump…in interviews or on stories?” Malone asked.
“Haha, well what do you think? They’re close friends,” I responded.
“Bingo!” Malone replied. “You don’t think Avenatti is smart enough to try and befriend the liberal media?”