Washington (AFP) – In the stranger-than-fiction reality show that is the Trump presidency, Anthony Scaramucci, the fast-talking New York investment banker known as the “Mooch,” barely lasted one episode.
But Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, has emerged as a star in the ever-evolving drama engulfing the White House.
“Michael Avenatti is my favorite character so far in season 2,” S. Ali Zaidi, a US congressional staffer, quipped on Twitter.
The balding, blue-eyed Avenatti has been a ubiquitous presence on cable television and late night talk shows since taking on as a client the woman who may now be the best-known XXX-rated movie star in America.
The pugnacious Los Angeles-based litigator revels in throwing verbal jabs at President Donald Trump and his legal team, often employing boxing metaphors to do so.
“Mr. Trump is on the ropes,” Avenatti said in a tweet.
He compared Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who is the latest addition to Trump’s legal team, to a punch drunk fighter.
“Mr Giuliani is clearly dazed and confused,” he said.
One of Avenatti’s favorite targets has been Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, who negotiated the $130,000 payment Daniels received not to talk about the 2006 affair she claims to have had with Trump.
“He’s no legal genius,” Avenatti said mockingly of Cohen, proclaiming him “radioactive” now that he is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors.
As for Trump, Avenatti said he welcomes having a legal adversary who is a “completely unhinged, undisciplined opponent who is prone to shooting himself in the foot.”
– Aggressive tactics –
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, hired Avenatti to get the “hush agreement” thrown out and he has embraced the task with gusto.
Besides seeking to have the non-disclosure agreement dismissed, Avenatti has also filed suit against Cohen and Trump for defamation and is seeking to force the president to give a deposition.
The aggressive tactics are no surprise to Jonathan Turley, one of Avenatti’s law professors at George Washington University, where he obtained his law degree.
“Michael is not someone who is likely to be intimidated,” Turley said. “He would be the last attorney you would want to muscle.”
Turley marveled at how Avenatti has repeatedly outfoxed the president’s legal team and kept the Stormy Daniels lawsuit in the news.
“Michael Avenatti is still controlling the narrative in this controversy,” he said, managing to make Cohen “trip on every wire” put in front of him.
Before taking on the Daniels case, Avenatti, 47, had earned a reputation as a successful litigator, notably earning a $454 million judgment against Kimberly-Clark Corp. over the quality of its surgical gowns.
Avenatti also has experience with celebrity cases.
He defended a lawsuit filed against two members of the band The Eagles and was involved in a defamation case with socialite Paris Hilton.
He has also tangled with Trump in the past.
In 2006, Avenatti represented a television producer who claimed the NBC television network had stolen the idea for Trump’s hit show “The Apprentice.” The suit was settled out of court.
– Race car driver –
Turley described Avenatti as an “adrenaline junkie,” a passion which manifests itself in his hobby of racing cars.
Avenatti was one of the three drivers of a Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 which finished in 36th place in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Avenatti is fond of quoting former US presidents on Twitter, citing at times Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt and the somewhat less illustrious Calvin Coolidge.
Others receiving Twitter mentions are Sun Tzu (“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”) and Sir Walter Scott (“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”).
Avenatti has said repeatedly that he is not out to get the president and just wants Stormy Daniels to be able to tell her story.
“This isn’t about politics – it’s about the TRUTH,” he tweeted.
At the same time, Avenatti has predicted that he believes Trump’s days as president are numbered.
“I do not think the president will serve out his term,” he said.
Avenatti put out a statement when questions were raised recently about who was paying his bills.
“No left wing conspiracy group is behind this,” he said. “And no big fat cat political donors are leading the charge.”
His fees were being paid by Daniels, he said, and through donations to the fund-raising website CrowdJustice.com, which has received more than $462,000 as of Friday.