Donald Trump’s celebration of—how’d he tweet it? Oh, yeah—“Total EXONERATION” must’ve ballooned when he heard the latest about Newport Beach-based lawyer Michael Avenatti.
Having in the past represented the Ron Goldman family against O.J. Simpson, Super Bowl ticketholders against the NFL and a suicide victim’s family against her ex-boyfriend Jim Carrey, 48-year-old Avenatti is likely best known for his reign of legal and PR terror against Trump.
It was hush-money payments to Avenatti’s porn-star client Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had a sexual tryst with Trump, that eventually led to Michael Cohen’s riveting testimony to Congress last month. But Avenatti actually began sparring with Trump in 2006, when he and fellow The Apprentice producer Mark Burnett settled an idea-theft lawsuit brought by a client of the lawyer.
Since grabbing the spotlight with Daniels, Avenatti has propped himself up as a Democratic challenger in the 2020 presidential election (he later withdrew); produced an accuser against Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh; and provided MSNBC with “secretly shot” video of a child separated from her mother while in the custody of immigration officials.
No. 29 on OC Weekly’s 2018 list of Orange County’s Scariest People, Avenatti has also disgraced himself along the way. He was accused various times during bankruptcy proceedings last year of failing to make agreed-upon payments to creditors and a former law partner. He was arrested in November for suspected domestic violence against his girlfriend (prosecutors ultimately did not charge him). He was evicted a few days later from his Fashion Island office by the Irvine Co., which says he skipped on $213,000 in rent. He settled a case in December with his second ex-wife, who was owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid child support.
Avenatti announced Monday morning he would hold a press conference to “disclose a major high
school/basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike,” but hours later, he was charged by federal prosecutors in New York with trying to extort $25 million from the shoe maker. Federal prosecutors in California later that day accused him of defrauding a Mississippi bank and embezzling from clients to pay off personal debts and expenses.
He and Trump were made for each other.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.