Donald Trump Faces Resistance In Britian, Why Won’t The News Focus On the Positive Rallies Instead?
Protests expected as Trump meets with May during second day in Britain
President Trump meets with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May Tuesday as the two talk with corporate executives from the United States and United Kingdom, before an afternoon news conference on the second day of Trump’s state visit. The leaders’ top priority is a possible bilateral trade deal to take … See More effect once the U.K. leaves the European Union.
“Big Trade Deal is possible once U.K. gets rid of the shackles. Already starting to talk,” Trump tweeted Monday. Still, after Monday’s day of pageantry and a war of words with London’s mayor, Trump could be greeted by tens of thousands of protesters as part of a “Carnival of Resistance.”
House Dems set to vote on whether to hold Barr, McGahn in contempt over Mueller report
The Democrat-led House of Representatives is set to vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congressfor failing to comply with congressional subpoenas, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Monday. Republicansrepeatedly have countered that federal law protecting secretive grand-jury information would prevent Barr from turning over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. As for McGahn, the White House has instructed its former top lawyer not to testify, saying he is legally immune from being compelled to discuss privileged discussions in the course of his official duties. Democrats have responded that McGahn waived that privilege by agreeing to speakto Mueller.
Judge tosses Democrats’ lawsuit over Trump’s use of emergency funds for border wall
A federal judge appointed by President Trump threw out House Democrats’ lawsuit seeking an injunction against the president’s emergency reallocation of funds for his border wall, saying that the matter is fundamentally a political dispute and that the politicians lack standing to make a legal case. Trump had declared a national emergency this past February over the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, following Congress’ failure to fund his border wall legislatively. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democrats then filed suit in April, charging that Trump was “stealing from appropriated funds” by moving $6.7 billion from other projects toward border wall construction.
Manafort to be moved to Rikers
Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was sentenced earlier this year to four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians, will be transferred later this week from a minimum security facility in Pennsylvania to New York City’s Rikers Island, a source close to Manafort told Fox News. Rikers Island has been the infamous temporary home of some of the most high-profile violent criminals in the city, including David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, and Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon. Manafort will be held in solitary confinement for his own protection, the source said. The move is expected to happen as early as Thursday.
Biden to unveil his climate change plan … but is it ‘woke’ enough?
Warning that “we must take drastic action now to address the climate disaster facing the nation and our world,” former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday will unveil a wide-ranging plan to combat climate change and transform America’s economy. Using the Green New Deal as a framework, the clear front-runner right now in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination will announce he’s “calling for a Clean Energy Revolution to confront this crisis and do what America does best – solve big problems with big ideas.” The price tag for the proposal – named “The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution & Environmental Justice” – is $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years. But is Biden’s plan green enough for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has questioned his credibility and commitment on climate change issues?
California State Bar moves to suspend Avenatti’s license, calls him a ‘substantial threat’
The California State Bar, which oversees discipline for all California-licensed attorneys, issued a “consumer alert” Monday evening concerning Michael Avenatti, saying it was moving to suspend him from the practice of law because his alleged conduct “poses a substantial threat of harm to clients or the public.” The development further accentuated Avenatti’s dramatic public fall from grace as he faces numerous federal criminal charges in both California and New York courts for allegedly trying to blackmail the clothing giant Nike, impersonating a client, misappropriating client funds for personal purchases, and related matters. Reached by Fox News late Monday, Avenatti called the California State Bar’s move “nothing more than a pile-on” and that he looked forward to being exonerated.
‘Jeopardy!’ champ James Holzhauer’s quest for all-time record sees stunning outcome in Monday’s show.
Prince Harry keeps distance from Trump at Buckingham Palace after ‘nasty’ comment.
Louisiana Democrat speaks out about supporting pro-life policies.
MINDING YOUR BUSINESS
Antitrust probes of Amazon, Google could force industry shift even without legal action.
US manufacturing activity hits multi-year lows as trade tensions weigh.
Trump calls for boycott of AT&Tover CNN outrage.
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No one knew Avenatti’s rage cycle better than Miniutti, a model who moved to the United States from a little town in Estonia on a gap year after high school. She ran into Avenatti in October 2017 at Cecconi’s in Hollywood. She was 23 at the time and out with a girlfriend when the lawyer, then 46, approached her and asked her to have dinner with him. After a few weeks, she was essentially moved into a luxury high-rise in Century City. They traveled in Europe for a few weeks in November and he offered to pay her rent and about a thousand dollars in spending money each month. (Avenatti said that his financial support far exceeded that amount.) He didn’t want her to work, she told me, sitting in her attorney Michael Bachner’s Manhattan office in early April, within spitting distance of the Charging Bull sculpture down past Wall Street. She turned up in ripped black jeans and dainty silver rings on five of her fingers. She had a mess of blonde hair pulled back by the black sunglasses she kept on her head for much of two hours and Jessica Rabbit lips that quivered as she detailed what she called a year of verbal, psychological, and physical abuse. Avenatti has denied ever physically harming anyone. “Any allegation that I have ever been physical with a woman is complete nonsense,” he told me. By the spring, months into their dating, she told him she was thinking about getting a waitressing job. “I wanted to be more social and earn some money to pay my credit card, but he said, ‘Mareli, really? Do you realize who you’re dating? I could be the next president of the United States. We could celebrate my 50th birthday in the White House. You can’t be a waitress.’ ” (Another woman Avenatti was romantically involved with also told me that Avenatti had asked her if she wanted to be First Lady.) Avenatti denied telling Miniutti that she could not wait tables. He said that he’d perhaps joked with a few women about being First Lady—but many more had approached him asking if they could have the role.
Miniutti rarely knew which Michael she would wake up to, she said. “He has two extremely different personalities,” she explained. “One was this very powerful guy. I saw people who would shake his hand. They respected him. … I was so proud of him [when he first started representing Stormy].” The other, she said, was “very aggressive.” By the summer, when his schedule was busy enough that they would only have a few days together at a time, his temper flared. On their way to dinner one evening, when she opened up to him about an eating disorder she struggled with and started to cry, he turned the car around and told her that she was “fucking the whole night up” by bringing it up on their one night out together, that she was “a fucking idiot to start crying and making drama” on their way out for a nice night. “It was my fault at the end of everything,” she told me. “That was just something I got used to. He would yell at me for bringing something up by asking if that’s really how I wanted to spend what little time we had together. I wanted to be a supportive partner, so I let it slide off … but I felt really scared when I would see one side of him, then the other, within a half-hour period. Up and down, up and down.”
It was not until February, four months into their dating, that she said he became physically abusive. It was his birthday, and he had wanted to spend the night before going out with a friend who was in town. She went out separately with her friends, and when Avenatti returned to his apartment and saw that she was not yet home, he texted her, asking where she was. She said she told him that she would be home in an hour. When she got there, she said she could tell that he was drunk. She had been drinking, too, and he laid into her. “He was upset that I could be so disrespectful and selfish, on his birthday. If he texts me that he’s home, he told me that I should come right away and that that’s how relationships work.” She had gotten into bed before he jumped up and started yelling at her to “get the fuck out. Get the fuck out” of the apartment. “I don’t want you here tonight,” he told her. When she got up to leave, she said, he literally threw her out the door into the hallway, where she hit her head on the wall. “I made excuses after that,” she said. “The excuse that time was that we were both drunk and emotional, and I really did not believe that he would do something like that again.”
He did, though, she said. By early November, she had maxed out her credit card. She’d bought him a $500 limited-edition Yves Saint Laurent cologne (it “smelled so sexy,” she said) for their anniversary, though, she says, he had not gotten her anything. She had asked him for money because her accounts were overdrawn and she didn’t have enough cash to order food or put gas in her car. He had put $2,000 in her account on November 13, just before she went to work on set for a Snoop Dogg music video. It hadn’t yet cleared, so she had to ask one of the other girls to pay for her gas in order to get home at the end of the day. She took a shower, put on a T-shirt and underwear, and got into bed. In a letter to the district attorney’s office Avenatti’s lawyers sent last fall, he claimed that she had been drinking and doing drugs on set, a claim she denied. He also said that she had recently started taking Accutane, an acne medication he said could cause emotional distress. She said she had only been taking the drug for two days and had no problem with it whatsoever.
She was drained by the time Avenatti got home from drinks with a friend, but she told him she thought she needed to work more. She had been embarrassed having to ask for gas money, and she never wanted to feel that way again. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, she said, and he looked her right in the eye. “Goddammit,” she said he yelled, mimicking how he stood up in the bedroom as we sat in her lawyer’s office. “You motherfucking ungrateful bitch.” She went to the guest bedroom. He followed, she said. “Get the fuck out,” she recalled him saying. “You’re just ungrateful and disrespectful.” She started to text a friend to see if she could sleep there that night instead when he grabbed her phone. He put his hands on her shoulders, she said, and tried to force her out of the apartment. Her arms were slick from body oil after the shower and he couldn’t quite grip her. She saw that the window was open and started screaming for help, she says, when he got hold of one of her arms and dragged her first across the carpet and then across a hardwood floor. He opened the door and flung her into the hallway. “I was so shocked and shaking that I couldn’t even stand up. I reached up to ring the doorbell for the apartment across the hallway and he saw me. ‘Are you fucking insane?’ he said.” He pulled her back inside and she warned him that if he did not give her phone back and let her go, she would count to three and start screaming. She started to panic when he didn’t budge. “That’s when I really started to freak and I asked him to please not come any closer.” His demeanor immediately changed, she said. “He said, ‘Baby, come here. We’re so much better than this.’ I can’t even describe that moment and what his eyes looked like. Like a psychopath. All I could think was, He is going to hurt you.” She made her way to the guest bedroom, put on pants, and made a break for the door. The elevator did not come fast enough, she said, so she walked toward the service elevators, where she knew there were cameras. He got in with her, pleading with her to not do this. She went down to the security desk in the lobby, where the attendants ultimately called the police.
Avenatti was arrested around two P.M. the following day. He was released on $50,000 bail and spoke briefly to reporters.
In a statement released by his law office that day, Avenatti said that the allegations against him were “completely bogus,” adding, “I have never been physically abusive in my life nor was I last night. Any accusations to the contrary are fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation. I look forward to being fully exonerated.”
The arrest was only one of Avenatti’s Waterloos that fall. He’d launched another publicity war, this one against Brett Kavanaugh in the midst of his confirmation hearings. But then his client, Julie Swetnick, backtracked on or contradicted portions of a sworn statement she’d given to Congress alleging she witnessed the future Supreme Court nominee getting girls drunk so he and his friends could gang-rape them at a party. In early October, Swetnick did an interview with NBC News, at which Avenatti was present and instructing his client, in which she contradicted her sworn statement. The F.B.I., in its curt investigation into various allegations made about Kavanaugh’s conduct, declined to interview Swetnick, and in her consequential final vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Maine senator Susan Collins cited Swetnick and Avenatti’s conduct as a reason why she doubted the validity of the claims against him and ultimately voted in his favor. It was a shift in the way the public viewed Avenatti, though he told me that Collins is the biggest fraud in the Senate and that neither he nor Swetnick changed a single vote. He said that he stands by her and her allegations.
Then a federal judge dismissed Daniels’s defamation case against Trump and ordered her to pay his legal fees. Avenatti told me that the judgment was what Daniels had been after all along, since it ruled that she was permitted to get out of the N.D.A.: “She described the case as a win after.” A week later, a different judge in California ordered him to pay $4.85 million to a former law partner. The same day, his firm was evicted from its office in a Newport Beach building for allegedly failing to pay rent for the past four months. Three days later, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley referred Avenatti and Swetnick to the Department of Justice for a criminal probe, alleging that they made “materially false statements” to Grassley’s committee as it investigated the allegations, though nothing has since come of this referral. At the beginning of December, Avenatti officially took his hat out of the ring for his short-lived presidential bid. “I do not make this decision lightly—I make it out of respect for my family,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter. “But for their concerns, I would run.”
“In the United States of America, we don’t convict people based on press conferences or indictments,” Avenatti said to me in the glass tower on Santa Monica, without a hint of irony. This from a man who held a handful of press conferences outside Manhattan courthouses after Michael Cohen appeared for a status conference, despite the fact that Avenatti had been denied a request to officially intervene in the case against Cohen. “We usually require prosecutors to present evidence and facts and, depending on the strength of that evidence and those facts, then we either convict or acquit people.”
But Avenatti wouldn’t go into details. All he would say was that he had not done anything illegal. He said there were things he regretted and would do differently, though he would not elaborate on what those things were. He did admit that there were all kinds of worries keeping him up at night. “I’m facing some very serious charges that could result in me spending a long time in a federal prison, and that’s most certainly keeping me up. I’m facing the power of the federal government, which is enormous.” In a follow-up interview in May, Avenatti told me that had he not taken on Trump, he doesn’t believe he would have been charged at all. “The government didn’t begin to look at charging me criminally until I became one of the biggest threats, if not the biggest threat, to the president of the United States, and anyone who thinks differently is a fool,” he said.
He recognized, too, that he’s in those crosshairs by his own design—like Trump, he has a sense of his own drama. “The good news is that I’m incredibly fearless. The bad news is that I’m incredibly fearless,” he said. “In racing, you have to have a certain level of fearlessness to be able to drive on the edge and succeed, but you can’t have so much fearlessness that you are reckless and approach things with reckless abandonment, because otherwise, you end up crashing and potentially killing yourself. That’s a very, very fine line. It’s a razor’s edge.”
For Avenatti, it was always about the edge, getting as close to it as he’d let himself. That’s why he raced cars and went into trial law and probably why he allegedly thought he could get away with not paying taxes and maneuvering client money around, as prosecutors outlined. “Before every closing argument I’ve ever given, right before I get into it, I’ve gone into the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror and taken myself back to a particular moment of growing up. The same moment. Because I’ve been nervous or any time when I’m fearful or nervous, I take myself back to that moment.”
Avenatti says he lived a perfectly normal childhood in a middle-class family. His dad was an executive at Anheuser-Busch before he got laid off when Avenatti was in his late teens. He would not go into what that particular moment was when he was 12. He would only say that he “grew up very, very fast, and I faced some challenges that molded me into who I am and instilled a certain toughness and a certain fearlessness that has stayed with me and in the fabric of who I am.” That toughness, he said, was born out of necessity. Miniutti, in explaining why she feels some sadness for Avenatti, despite how he treated her, said that she thought his need to be fearless stemmed from an incident when he was around that age. Two people told me that the fear stemmed from concern that he would be taken away from his family.
In April, Avenatti started telling me what he told himself in the mirror before every trial. But his voice broke. For a good 10 seconds, he couldn’t manage a word. “I feel like this is Jerry Maguire, you know, when Cuba Gooding Jr. is on set and says, ‘I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.’ ” He laughed and drained a plastic cup of water. Miniutti would later tell me that Avenatti cried, often, particularly when she was upset with him after he got hotheaded and she would want to sleep elsewhere, or in front of her friends who were skeptical of him. “It was his way of manipulation,” she told me. “Or maybe that was the realest Michael I’d ever seen. He could be like a little puppy dog. Or, maybe, he’s just not mentally O.K.” The other woman whom he was romantically involved with told me a similar story. “He could cry on command,” she said. “He’s a narcissist and narcissists can always cry on demand.”
Regardless, in his glass tower, the emotions overflowed. “I take myself back to that moment when I was 12. I realize at that moment that what I’m fearful of, and what I’m about to go do, is nothing compared to that moment of fear. I drew on that before I decided to sue the president of the United States, and I’ve drawn on that repeatedly over the last 12 months, and I’m confident that, unfortunately, I’m going to have to draw on that over the next few months and beyond.”
One person who interviewed Avenatti a number of times over the last year explained that his working theory was that Avenatti was a guy who’d been on the run from a series of burning bridges for a while. “There’s the great expression—patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I’ve always felt like running for president was his last option,” he said. “He didn’t have anywhere else to go. He was totally trapped, so he thought maybe I can get around the fray.”
I asked him repeatedly to square why he would have made a decision to get into such a public life at the same time his private life was unraveling—if he wanted to get caught or punish himself or test the limits. Avenatti’s explanation was that he didn’t see this case rising to the level of attention that it had. Perhaps that is the only way someone with his baggage would have entered the arena in such a spectacularly public way. “I never imagined that this case would take on the magnitude that it did and would have thrust me into the spotlight and into the national spotlight like it did,” he said. “I have said many, many times over the last year, this is either going to end really, really well, or really, really badly. I am most fearful of the fact that the rate of descent is greater than the rate of ascent. Some would argue at this point that I flew too close to the sun. As I sit here today, yes, absolutely, I know I did. No question. Icarus.”
There was a point, he said, when he was living out of a hotel in New York, where he would wake up every day and want to pinch himself because he couldn’t believe what was happening. He was getting to sit across from Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper and talk to millions of people. He got to speak at the Wing Ding, a Democratic fund-raiser in Iowa, to what he saw as a crowd blown away by his performance. The publicity he got for Daniels’s case kept the campaign-finance violations in the news, which did significant damage to Trump and people in his orbit. “I couldn’t believe how unbelievably great everything was,” he got out before his voice started to catch again. “Now, there are days when I can’t believe what a nightmare this is.”
I asked what it was like on those days. What did he do. “Chin up,” he said. “Keep your feet moving. As soon as you put your head down or your feet stop moving, they tackle you.”
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With the Southern District of New York’s indictment of Michael Avenatti over his alleged attempts to defraud Stormy Daniels, one #Resistance hero has been pitted against another. And although the media will be quick to distance themselves from the disgraced attorney, the fact is that they created this monster and they own him.
Michael Avenatti was one of many Newport Beach con men dressing up in designer suits to play-act the part of the Southern California elite. His office flanked the luxury open-air Fashion Island shopping center. His homes lined the California coast: one perched on Emerald Bay in Laguna Beach, another on Lido Island, and an extra high-rise in Century City up in Los Angeles. He lived like a millionaire, dodging taxes and structuring his professional dealings closer to a Ponzi scheme than a legitimate legal operation.
Plenty of Newport Beach con men bit the dust in 2008 as the housing collapse revealed finances that couldn’t possibly fund their lavish lifestyles. They will continue to crumble. But instead of fading into irrelevance, Avenatti shielded himself with the president’s ex-paramour — which is really just a kind way of describing a porn star he supposedly had an affair with and discarded more than a decade ago. And the media took the bait.
Between 121 CNN appearances and 108 MSNBC appearances, the media gave Avenatti $175 million worth of airtime, free of charge. CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter ought to check why his organization continued to enable such a thinly veiled hack, but then again, Stelter was in on the schtick.
“And looking ahead to 2020, one reason I’m taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news,” Stelter told Avenatti just last year. There’s only just one problem (aside from the obvious irony that Stelter was the one giving Avenatti his platform on cable news). They all knew he was an enormous jerk.
Among one of the least gross details in a Vanity Fair piece detailing the fall of Avenatti — he likens himself to Icarus — is his horrible treatment of cable news staff behind the scenes:
Bookers and cable news celebrities were still platforming this fifth-rate sham of an attorney even after they knew he was berating their staffers. They elevated him as a voice of moral authority, a foil to the president they lambaste daily for his treatment of the press.
So, it could have come as no shock that multiple police reports detailed Avenatti verbally and violently abusing his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend. Yet, the media acted surprised and then ever so slowly distanced themselves from him.
The media took a con man fated for criminal status and irrelevance and turned him into a national celebrity at the vanguard of the #Resistance, all while knowing full well not just his ignorance on display for the public, but his viciousness directed towards their own.
Remember that the next time a talking head laments that there’s some kind of “war on the press” going on.
Once Michael Avenatti got his first taste of national television coverage during the Stormy Daniels news cycle last year, he quickly became addicted to the attention. Cable newscasts gladly enabled him, spewing the Trump-hating celebrity lawyer across the networks, often multiple interviews a day. Now that it’s clear the “Creepy Porn Lawyer” is exactly the bad actor we thought he was, the media should be shamed for providing a scam artist with a megaphone and making him a household name.
On Monday, Avenatti was arrested and charged by federal authorities for attempting to extort Nike for millions of dollars. On the same day, the state of California filed charges against him for embezzlement and fraud. Thanks to CNN, MSNBC, and Avenatti’s thirst for attention, this was not just breaking news about your average sleazy scam artist, but news about someone that major networks propped up hundreds of times as a credible, authoritative source on several major stories over the last year.
By my count, Avenatti was interviewed on broadcast and cable news networks 214 times in 2018, spanning from March to November. Presumably, the only reason the invitations eventually came to halt was Avenatti’s November 14 arrest for allegations of domestic abuse.
The Media Research Center found that in a 10-week span last spring, from March to May, Avenatti was interviewed a whopping 147 times. Neither of those totals include additional segments about Avenatti, where he was the subject of news, but not interviewed. In 2018, CNN gave him the most airtime, with 107 live interviews. MSNBC came in a close second at 81.
Like a true addict, Avenatti always found ways to get his fix. The frequency of his appearances spiked anytime President Trump or Rudy Giuliani made comments about his former client Stormy Daniels. Once the Daniels-Cohen news cycle died down, he quickly found new ways to wedge himself back into the limelight.
In July and August, he began defending Central Americans who illegally crossed the U.S. border and were separated from their children in the process. Later in the fall he represented Julie Swetnick, a woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh of gang rape.
During these events Avenatti would often go on two- or three-day benders, appearing on cable news networks multiple times a day, for days in a row. Even if he couldn’t make it in studio, hosts would have him on over the phone.
On August 21, the day former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, Avenatti started his day on “MSNBC Live” with Steve Kornacki. In the afternoon he appeared on CNN’s “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer, followed by an appearance a few hours later on CNN with Don Lemon. The next morning, he appeared on CNN’s “New Day” with Alisyn Camerota, and again later that same day on “Anderson Cooper 360.” On the 23rd, for the third day in a row, he appeared on CNN, again with Blitzer.
Avenatti had a similar marathon run on Sept. 26, the day he revealed the identity of his client, the third Kavanaugh accuser. In less than 24 hours, starting on MSNBC and ending with an appearance on “Good Morning America,” he was interviewed on nine different television shows. At one point, he bounced from CNN at 9:00 to MSNBC at 10:00, then back to Don Lemon’s show on CNN in the same hour.
CNN hosts did not just reserve their affection for Avenatti to working hours. They invited him to their parties, and lauded his ambitions to run for president in 2020.
It’s okay. I saved that deleted tweet of CNN hosts partying it up with Avenatti. Why would such a thing need to be deleted? pic.twitter.com/iutCtnwaxi
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) May 17, 2018
CNN reporter April Ryan shared this photo with Avenatti at a 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner party.
Avenatti went on to create his own PAC and even released a platform for a potential presidential campaign, all with the encouragement of his anchor pals at CNN. They never questioned his qualifications, but described him on air as a serious candidate.
“And looking ahead to 2020, one reason I’m taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news,” CNN host Brian Stelter told Avenatti in September.
Flashback: CNN’s @brianstelter touts Michael Avenatti as a “serious” contender for 2020.
“And looking ahead to 2020, one reason I’m taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news.” pic.twitter.com/c5JEdVrLiJ
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 25, 2019
Avenatti, ever the glutton for attention, was even willing to do more contentious interviews, like when he sat down with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “You pose as a feminist hero because you are shameless and the other channels let you get away with it. But you’re an exploiter of a woman and you should be ashamed of it,” Carlson said.
Carlson is right. Avenatti exploited his clients Daniels, Swetnick, Central Americans, and others for hundreds of millions of dollars in free media coverage. Networks like CNN and MSNBC happily obliged his exploitation. They provided a platform for a shameless media grifter’s scams, and would have continued had federal authorities not stepped in. The same wall-to-wall coverage of Donald Trump, now done for an alleged criminal, will surely be done again with the next shiny object to come along.
FILE PHOTO – Attorney Michael Avenatti leaves court after making an initialappearance on charges of bank and wire fraud at federal court in Santa Ana, California, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake
May 22, 2019
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Michael Avenatti’s legal troubles escalated on Wednesday as federal prosecutors announced new criminal charges against the combative lawyer and prominent critic of U.S. President Donald Trump, accusing Avenatti of stealing from porn star Stormy Daniels and blackmailing Nike Inc.
Avenatti, 48, was accused of misappropriating funds from Daniels, a former client whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, after helping her secure a book contract.
He was also hit with extortion charges over what prosecutors have called his effort to blackmail Nike out of more than $20 million by threatening to expose what he called the athletic wear company’s improper payments to recruits for college basketball teams it sponsored.
The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan.
Avenatti also faces dozens of charges in California, where prosecutors have accused him of stealing millions of dollars from clients to pay for personal and business expenses, and lying to the Internal Revenue Service and a Mississippi bank about his finances.
If convicted on all charges, Avenatti could face several hundred years in prison.
Avenatti has maintained his innocence, and said the earlier prosecutions were a means to punish him for representing Daniels and being a Trump critic.
“I look forward to a jury hearing all of the evidence and passing judgment on my conduct,” he wrote on Twitter after Wednesday’s charges were announced.
“At no time was any money misappropriated or mishandled,” he added. “I will be fully exonerated once the relevant emails, contracts, text messages, and documents are presented.”
Lawyers for Avenatti did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
Avenatti Separately Indicted on Previously-Announced Charges Relating to a Scheme to Extort the Athletic Apparel Company Nike, Inc.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the indictment today of MICHAEL AVENATTI on fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. As alleged, AVENATTI used misrepresentations and a fraudulent document purporting to bear his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to AVENATTI’s client to an account controlled by AVENATTI. AVENATTI then spent the money principally for his own personal and business purposes. The fraud and aggravated identity theft case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York.
AVENATTI was separately indicted today on extortion charges, which were the subject of a previous Complaint and arrest of AVENATTI, relating to his alleged attempt to extract more than $20 million in payments from Nike, Inc., by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met. That case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Michael Avenatti abused and violated the core duty of an attorney – the duty to his client. As alleged, he used his position of trust to steal an advance on the client’s book deal. As alleged, he blatantly lied to and stole from his client to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, including to pay for, among other things, a monthly car payment on a Ferrari. Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today:
From August 2018 through February 2019, AVENATTI defrauded a client (“Victim-1”) by diverting money owed to Victim-1 to AVENATTI’s control and use. After assisting Victim-1 in securing a book contract, AVENATTI allegedly stole a significant portion of Victim-1’s advance on that contract. He did so by, among other things, sending a fraudulent and unauthorized letter purporting to contain Victim-1’s signature to Victim-1’s literary agent, which instructed the agent to send payments not to Victim-1 but to a bank account controlled by AVENATTI. As alleged, Victim-1 had not signed or authorized the letter, and did not even know of its existence.
Specifically, prior to Victim-1’s literary agent wiring the second of four installment payments due to Victim-1 as part of the book advance, AVENATTI sent a letter to Victim-1’s literary agent purportedly signed by Victim-1 that instructed the literary agent to send all future payments to a client trust account in Victim-1’s name and controlled by AVENATTI. The literary agent then wired $148,750 to the account, which AVENATTI promptly began spending for his own purposes, including on airfare, hotels, car services, restaurants and meal delivery, online retailers, payroll for his law firm and another business he owned, and insurance. When Victim-1 began inquiring of AVENATTI as to why Victim-1 had not received the second installment, AVENATTI lied to Victim-1, telling Victim-1 that he was still attempting to obtain the payment from Victim-1’s publisher. Approximately one month after diverting the payment, AVENATTI used funds recently received from another source to pay $148,750 to Victim-1, so that Victim-1 would not realize that AVENATTI had previously taken and used Victim-1’s money.
Approximately one week later, pursuant to AVENATTI’s earlier fraudulent instructions, the literary agent sent another payment of $148,750 of Victim-1’s book advance to the client account controlled by AVENATTI. AVENATTI promptly began spending the money for his own purposes, including to make payments to individuals with whom AVENATTI had a personal relationship, to make a monthly lease payment on a luxury automobile, and to pay for airfare, dry cleaning, hotels, restaurants and meals, payroll, and insurance costs. Moreover, to conceal his scheme, and despite repeated requests to AVENATTI, as Victim-1’s lawyer, for assistance in obtaining the book payment that Victim-1 believed was missing, AVENATTI led Victim-1 to believe that Victim-1’s publisher was refusing to make the payment to the literary agent, when, as AVENATTI knew, the publisher had made the payment to the literary agent, who had then sent the money to AVENATTI pursuant to AVENATTI’s fraudulent instructions.
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AVENATTI, 48, of Los Angeles, California, is charged in the fraud and aggravated identity theft indictment with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years in addition to the sentence imposed for the wire fraud charge.
AVENATTI is charged in the extortion indictment with one count of conspiracy to transmit interstate communications with intent to extort, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, one count of transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison, and one count of extortion, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences in both cases are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the work of the FBI and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and noted that the investigation is ongoing.
The cases are being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Podolsky, Robert L. Boone, and Robert B. Sobelman are in charge of the prosecutions.
Source: The Washington Pundit