Thursday, May 10, 2018
So exactly who is paying Michael Avenatti? And is he a lawyer, an opposition researcher, a journalist or a campaign operative? He wants to make the discussion all about where Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney, got his money but, to have clean hands, Avenatti needs to come forward with exactly who is financing his operation, who his sources were for detailed banking information, and whether he really is an attorney solely representing Stormy Daniels or just using her as cover to wage a political operation. From the beginning, this has been fishy. Daniels's previous lawyer advised her to stick to her agreements. In contrast, Avenatti OK'd her violating with impunity her nondisclosure agreement on "60 Minutes" despite a binding arbitration judgment against her. She has acknowledged on Twitter that she is not paying for her lawyer. So who is? And did he indemnify her against all multimillion-dollar penalties?
It took a long time and even a court battle to find out that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the Fusion GPS dossier, a fact that was disclosed only after the damage was done, as former British spy and the dossier's compiler, Christopher Steele, had already created a vast echo chamber as though the material he was peddling had been verified in some way -- which, of course, it never was. Now Avenatti is being allowed to repeat this same process, mixing truths with half-truths and evading accountability.
Avenatti has been given a free, unfettered media perch on TV to spread his stuff without the networks forcing him to meet any disclosure requirements -- saying that he is Stormy Daniels's attorney when someone else entirely is paying for this operation is not true disclosure that allows the viewer to evaluate the source and potential conflicts. And now he is being given deference as though he was a journalist with an interest in protecting unverified sources while he makes the most headline grabbing pronouncements he can. Lawyers need to disclose the source of their evidence.
The more you peel back the onion, the more Cohen and Avenatti seem alike -- both fixers, bending every rule they can get away with. Fairly or unfairly, Cohen is being put under the microscope, and we can rest assured that every payment in or out will be fully scrutinized by law enforcement. But Avenatti can't be given a pass on these issues. Americans are entitled to know just who this guy is, who is writing his checks and whether he legally obtained his information.
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