Michael Avenatti rode his notorious representation of Stormy Daniels like a meteor across the media firmament. Avenatti’s ubiquity, fueled by shameless self-promotion with over 100 appearances on CNN, trolling others on Twitter, repeatedly threatening to bring down the president — even flirting with a run for president himself — was a fascinating train wreck played out on the national airwaves and Twitter.
Was he Achilles, a warrior with a tragic vulnerability (his hubris)? Or Icarus, whose ambition caused him to fly too close to the sun until his feathers melted off and he tumbled to earth?
In a surprise to no one besides his fangirls at CNN, Michael Avenatti was charged in a New York court with trying to extort $20M from Nike, and the same day charged in California with stealing from a client and committing bank fraud. Avenatti’s rapid downfall came directly after a tweet that he would be “holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike that we have uncovered.”
The scandal turned out to be perpetrated by Avenatti himself. The details of his shakedown attempt shocked even hardened plaintiff’s attorneys used to proposing confidential settlements to vulnerable defendants. The line between legitimate hard bargaining and outright extortion may be a hazy one, but Avenatti is accused of being far over the line.
The Avenatti charges might have been even shocking, were the public not already inured to his brash, boundary-pushing behavior. Earlier this year, Avenatti’s firm filed for bankruptcy for the second time, after which a former law partner accused him of hiding millions from the courts that oversaw his bankruptcy; the court bounced the filing after only six days. In 2018, he was accused of domestic violence by his then-girlfriend, Mareli Miniutti, and arrested. Also in 2018, Avenatti was ordered by a judge in California to pay $4.8 million to a former law partner who had bailed him out of bankruptcy in 2017 — only for Avenatti to default on that loan as well. Even CNN seemed to have soured on their darling.
The U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Nick Hanna, said Avenatti was a “corrupt lawyer” who “fights for his own selfish interests.” His representation of Stormy Daniels and Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick — both of which ended with a higher public profile for Avenatti, and un happy endings for his relationship with his clients – bears out Hanna’s harsh accusation.
Following the Kavanaugh hearing, both Swetnick and Avenatti were referred by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to the Justice department and FBI for investigation that they had made false claims about Justice Kavanaugh. Even the supposed corroborator of Swetnick’s accusations claimed that Avenatti twisted her words to fit her endgame.
Avenatti’s dealings with his onetime muse, Stormy Daniels, bottomed out when in a statement released after his arrest, she said she was “saddened but not shocked” by the charges, saying that Avenatti had “dealt with [her] extremely dishonestly.” She also promised there would be more announcements to come.” Stormy fired Avenatti less than a month ago, after a tumultuous back and forth including accusations from Daniels that Avenatti had filed the Trump lawsuit without her consent — a suit that ended with Daniels ordered to pay nearly $300,000 in Trump’s legal fees. Avenatti sped on, spewing his own career wreckage in his frenzied wake.
Avenatti’s interrupted endgame remains unclear. Did he want to run for president himself? Take down a president or now-Justice Kavanaugh? Amass millions of dollars to feed his flashy lifestyle? Throughout, it has been clear that Avenatti’s goals had nothing to do with truth, justice, or rule of law — in one low moment, he trolled Michael Cohen’s attorneys, rejecting the proposition of innocence until proven guilty. Lawyer peers began to shake their heads and tut-tut — and when you’ve lost the support of porn star clients and plaintiff lawyers, you’ve really hit rock bottom.
In the end, Avenatti, the camera-ready uber-grifter of our times, has been revealed as Ovid’s Narcissus, arrogant and scornful, falling in love with his own reflection and eventually drowning in his reflected image. Avenatti was also infected with a particularly virulent strain of Trump Derangement Syndrome, which a biased media seized upon to elevate him into a darling of the “resistance.”
The media played its role in this tragedy, even enabling his alleged crimes — Avenatti would never have been in a position to extort Nike with the threat of ruinous publicity had it not been for CNN’s adulation. Ironically, we end a whirlwind of discussion of indictments and exonerations with Michael Avenatti, who has on multiple occasions called for Trump to be indicted, being the one indicted himself, as Trump’s magic superpower to make his enemies own themselves, ended up with Avenatti’s nemesis triumphant.
Harmeet K. Dhillon (@Pnjaban) is the Republican National Committeewoman from California and vice president of communications for the Republican National Lawyers Association. She is a partner at the Dhillon Law Group.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.