Why? Just because he’s threatening journalists for writing things he doesn’t like?
Come to think of it, that is a bit like Michael Cohen.
There’s a better analogy for Avenatti’s behavior out there, though:
I’m sure I’m not the first person to observe this, but Avenatti seems quite Trumpian in both loving media attention and acting quite contemptuously toward the free press. https://t.co/yXQHkQlbfR
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) May 14, 2018
Political junkies have spent the past 18 months wondering if, deep down, Democrats want a Trump of their own. Given Avenatti’s Resistance rock-star status, we may have our answer.
Two points in fairness to him. First, Cohen’s form of threatening journalists is notably different from Avenatti’s. Avenatti sent the Daily Caller a standard, if aggressive, letter vowing to sue for defamation if the alleged libel against him continued. Cohen, however, once threatened Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak this way:
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up… for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet… you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
Alrighty then. Second, Avenatti’s taken heat over the past 24 hours for not specifying which part of the Daily Caller story was supposedly libelous. That’s a fair knock, but I’d guess it was the DC citing sources who’ve worked with him as saying he’s “willing to use unethical methods to win a case” — which is a serious charge. Elsewhere in the same piece they described him as “ruthless, greedy and unbothered by ethical questions.” You can call him a scumbag or note his business failures but suggesting that he’s violated his ethical duties as a lawyer without hard evidence is destined to get his attention.
But that’s not to say his letter was warranted. The bar to a public figure like Avenatti recovering in a defamation suit is very high, after all. He’d have to show that the DC made the claim about his ethics with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity, which would be hard to do if in fact multiple people who have worked with him passed that information along, even if it’s wrong. Hypothetically the Daily Caller may have been negligent in running it but the law forgives mere negligence in coverage of a public figure. In fact, says lawyer Ken White, Avenatti’s threat letter has some telltale signs that he’s not serious about it:
/3 Avenatti’s threat carries at least three signs of bogosity:
1. He demands that the recipient keep his legal threat confidential;
2. He offers only vague conclusions that the article is defamatory;
3. His threats are extravagant.
— Popehat (@Popehat) May 14, 2018
/5 In short, between this and other recent conduct, the threat demonstrates that anti-Trump vigor — like pro-Trump vigor — is not a good reason to put credulous trust in someone. Exercise skepticism, particularly with the media-hungry.
— Popehat (@Popehat) May 14, 2018
There’s a highly specialized term of art used to describe when a lawyer tries to shut up a critic with a defamation threat he has no intention of following through on, particularly when that critic is part of the press: “Douchey.” Avenatti has more to worry about right now than the Daily Caller. WaPo noted last night that *if* it’s true that the information on Michael Cohen’s bank transactions came to him from a source whom he knew obtained the info illegally, that could present a problem for him in representing Stormy Daniels in New York.
Avenatti, who is licensed to practice in California, has asked for permission to represent Daniels in New York. [NYU ethics law professor Stephen] Gillers said that while it’s rare for a judge to deny a lawyer’s request to practice out of state, the allegations against Avenatti, if true, could be a valid basis for the New York judge, Kimba Wood, to deny the request. Unlike journalists, he said, lawyers may not use or disclose documents that they know were illegally obtained even if the lawyer does nothing unlawful to get them…
If Wood raises questions about how Avenatti obtained the information and he cannot answer them to her satisfaction, “there’s a very good chance she will deny” his request to practice, said Gillers, who has not in recent years given to federal campaigns.
“Nothing he has been doing in the last four to six weeks with his multiple television appearances advances the interests of his client in the California action,” Gillers added. “He’s catapulted himself to be the story.” It *does* seem strange that his client’s actions against Cohen to end the hush-money deal and to recover damages from defamation have somehow led to him dropping dark hints on Twitter about Qatari investors meeting with Cohen and Mike Flynn during the transition.
Via the Free Beacon, here’s Lemon in one of Avenatti’s seemingly thrice-daily CNN interviews asking him about the Cohen comparison. It’d be funny if he tried to sue the Caller for calling him unethical and then Kimba Wood declined his request to represent Daniels in federal court because him passing along illegally-obtained info on Cohen was, ah, arguably a little unethical.