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Michael Avenatti wasn’t happy. He often appears unhappy in his television interviews, of which he has done hundreds this year alone. Shaved bald and tanned a more appealing caramel color than the president’s unnatural seeming orange, Avenatti nonetheless ruins his advantage there with his constant squinting as he spits, jibes, and insults at the target of his obsession, Donald Trump. A prominent vein stands at perpetual attention on one side of his head, causing the viewer to speculate about a possible oncoming aneurysm. His persona stands in sharp contrast to—or maybe it compliments—his expensive suits and ties, which telegraph a life of high risk and high reward.
But Avenatti was particularly angry during and after an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News. Carlson had insulted him. The host’s favorite moniker for the attorney has been “creepy porn lawyer,” and the program saw fit to plaster it on the news chyron throughout the entire (live) interview, unbeknownst to Avenatti at the time.
He was also irritated with Carlson’s questioning of his presidential ambitions. Indeed, Avenatti has a list of political positions pinned to his Twitter account, which has nearly 850,000 followers (most gained within the past year). He’s adopted the Social Justice Warrior’s strategy of labeling the GOP senators who appear uninterested in his clients’ lurid tales “old white misogynist men.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking Avenatti was not a lawyer but a politician and public figure.
Who is Michael Avenatti? Attorney to porn actress and stripper Stormy Daniels, illegal immigrants separated from their families as a result of Trump’s immigration policies, and most recently, Julie Swetnick, one of the women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of some form of sexual misconduct. He’s even someone Steve Bannon recently said was a serious contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
But Avenatti is also someone who can’t practice law in Washington, D.C. or Maryland, so it’s unclear how he’s representing his most recent client. In fact, it’s unclear whether Avenatti is really representing his clients or instead only representing himself.
In order better to answer to this question, we might ask: What purpose does a lawyer serve? Or more accurately, whom does a lawyer serve? His client, or himself? The answer should be obvious: his client. A lawyer represents his client in an adversarial justice system; he is an advocate for others, whether for good or evil, God or the devil. He is not advocating for himself; he is merely the mouthpiece for his client. Moreover, a lawyer is not a spokesperson or press relations agent; he does not seek to justify the ways of his client to mankind in general, but merely to a judge or jury. The court of law rather than the court of public opinion is his area of expertise. For this reason, lawyers have an internal code of ethics and conduct which often frowns upon such displays of publicity—including the advertising of legal services.
So why is Avenatti so blatantly not acting as a lawyer for his clients? Why is he instead acting as his own best advocate, as if he has something to prove to the public?
It’s certainly not the case that Avenatti, like Kavanaugh, has had his public reputation and honor besmirched, and that he must clear his name. No one had the name Avenatti on their lips before the Stormy Daniels case. He injected himself into the political realm, without any public urging whatsoever.
Keep in mind: Avenatti is not like other “television lawyers.” He is not like other lawyers who made their name in the public sphere by being an accomplished jurist or defending a high-profile client. He is not like Alan Dershowitz, Jose Baez (attorney to Casey Anthony), or Mark O’Mara (attorney to George Zimmerman). Baez and O’Mara were criminal defense attorneys, not flashy private plaintiff’s attorneys who went to the University of Pennsylvania and George Washington Law. Fame came without the asking in their cases; they were merely doing their jobs. They became famous because of their clients’ infamy. And true, even if O’Mara did become a “TV lawyer” as a legal analyst for CNN, he did not transform himself into a one-man show, a brand, a member of the so-called “Twitterati.”
The similarities stop at his representing Stormy Daniels in her initial claim against Michael Cohen. Everything since then has been pure show business.
Little-reported in the mainstream media: Avenatti has a $10 million lien stemming from a case where he embezzled money from one of his business partners. Tully’s, a coffee company he bought in 2013, also recently went bankrupt and closed up shop.
Although Tucker Carlson would like you to believe that Avenatti is becoming a fat cat while his various and sundry clients languish in poverty, this also isn’t the case. Avenatti’s clients are enriching themselves from the publicity Avenatti has secured for them. Can anyone doubt that Stormy Daniels’ new book and ticket sales aren’t an indication of some newfound appreciation of the public for her “talents?” Avenatti is the desperate one. Every dollar he makes goes to his former business partner.
Avenatti is a man trying to escape the pull of a black hole, from which even light cannot escape. He’s a dead man walking, a tool for other causes. He is hellbent on publicity because he is hellbent on surviving.
His political career—Avenatti the politician rather than Avenatti the attorney—is that into which he hopes to metamorphose. Out of the ashes (and out of debt) he hopes to rise again like the phoenix, reborn as something other than the frantic, “creepy porn lawyer” he is today.
Only time will tell if his big bet pays off.