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  1. #1
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Aug 2005

    Stormy Daniels’s Lawyer Sought Help From Democrats in Fight With Trump

    Stormy Daniels’s Lawyer Sought Help From Democrats in Fight With Trump

    By Kenneth P. Vogel
    June 1, 2018

    WASHINGTON — Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film actress who says she had a sexual encounter with President Trump, has sought help for his legal battle against Mr. Trump from leading Democratic operatives.

    Mr. Avenatti contacted an official in the network of liberal groups led by David Brock, while someone associated with Mr. Avenatti’s law firm was in touch with two people connected to major Democratic donors, according to people familiar with the conversations. But the discussions do not appear to have led to any financial help for the high-profile legal and public relations fight being waged by Mr. Avenatti and Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.

    Mr. Brock’s groups decided not to donate to the efforts because they saw little value in spending money on a legal fight that was largely being waged in the news media, especially given Mr. Avenatti’s penchant for attracting press coverage, according to two Democratic political operatives familiar with the discussions.

    It is not clear why the other interactions did not lead to donations or other assistance.

    The solicitations call into question Mr. Avenatti’s insistence that he and Ms. Clifford have never actively sought to raise money from major political donors because “we will not allow this to be politicized.”

    In an interview Thursday, Mr. Avenatti reiterated that “this isn’t about politics.”

    “I can’t tell you the name of every person that I have spoken to, or not spoken to, over the last three months,” he said, “but what I can tell you is that we have not taken any political-associated dollars from anyone on the right or anyone on the left. Period.”

    Mr. Avenatti, who has become a hero on the left for his brash condemnations of Mr. Trump and his allies, has a background on the periphery of Democratic politics. In his website biography, he notes that during college and law school he worked at a political consulting firm run by Rahm Emanuel, now the mayor of Chicago, and boasts that he worked on more than 150 campaigns in 42 states, though he said on Thursday that about 50 of the campaigns on which he worked were for Republicans.

    Regardless of his intent, Mr. Avenatti’s efforts on behalf of Ms. Clifford have produced problems for Mr. Trump and his allies far beyond her case, which stems from a $130,000 hush payment she received days before the 2016 presidential election from a Delaware-based company that had just been created by Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer. The White House and Mr. Cohen have denied that Mr. Trump and Ms. Clifford had a sexual encounter.

    A lawsuit brought in March against Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., by Mr. Avenatti and Ms. Clifford to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement, led to the revelation that Mr. Trump knew about the payment several months before denying knowledge of it, and also the admission that he had reimbursed Mr. Cohen for it, raising questions about campaign finance law compliance. And Mr. Avenatti’s release in recent weeks of a detailed — if not entirely accurate — report based on financial records that listed payments to Mr. Cohen’s firms led to the revelation that he was using his long association with the president to collect millions of dollars in consulting fees from companies with business before the Trump administration.

    Mr. Avenatti’s efforts have also fostered a circuslike atmosphere around a criminal inquiry into Mr. Cohen for which prosecutors have sought records of payments to Ms. Clifford and another woman who alleges she had an affair with Mr. Trump, the former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

    Mr. Avenatti backed off from trying to formally involve himself in that case on Wednesday, when he withdrew a motion that would have allowed him to participate in the proceedings after being called out by the federal judge presiding over the case, Kimba M. Wood. During a hearing on the case, Judge Wood warned Mr. Avenatti that he would “not be permitted to use this court as a platform for anything.”

    Also during the hearing, Mr. Cohen’s lawyers accused Mr. Avenatti of “aggrandizement” and acting unethically in releasing his report on Mr. Cohen’s finances and claiming that his law firm never represented Ms. Clifford.

    It was only the latest in a series of testy exchanges between allies of Mr. Trump and Mr. Avenatti, who appears to relish the conflict and the prospect of getting under his rivals’ skin. He posted a video on Twitter of one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in women’s clothing in response to Mr. Giuliani calling him a “pimp.”

    But Mr. Avenatti has bristled at questions about his financing, which escalated after Ms. Clifford admitted in late April that she was not paying his fees.

    Mr. Avenatti said on Thursday that Ms. Clifford initially paid him a small amount in legal fees, but is no longer footing the bill for his services, which he said are being funded entirely by donations made through a crowdfunding website.

    More than $527,000 from more than 15,000 donors has been raised on the website, which states that the money will go toward attorney’s fees, arbitration, security expenses, out-of-pocket costs associated with the lawsuit and potential damages if Ms. Clifford loses.

    But in the days before the website was unveiled, Mr. Avenatti called Bradley Beychok, the president of American Bridge, a nonprofit group and “super PAC” founded by Mr. Brock, and suggested that he was seeking to raise as much as $2 million, at least partly from major Democratic donors or groups, according to the two operatives familiar with the discussions.

    American Bridge is among a constellation of Brock-backed groups that raised $65 million over the past two years, and spent heavily in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In the waning days of the race, American Bridge’s nonprofit arm spent $200,000 on an unsuccessful effort to encourage women to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Trump. And since Mr. Trump became president, Mr. Brock’s groups have focused on attacking Mr. Trump and his Republican allies, floating the idea of creating a fund to encourage victims to bring forward sexual misconduct claims against Republican politicians.

    But American Bridge did not contribute to Mr. Avenatti’s efforts, because the group’s leaders concluded it was not a good use of their money, the two Democratic operatives said.

    Mr. Avenatti was referred to Mr. Brock’s groups by Mike Berkowitz, a political adviser who works with Rachel Pritzker, heiress to a Hyatt hotel fortune, and other donors, according to the two Democrats and another person familiar with the sequence of events. Someone from Mr. Avenatti’s firm reached out to Mr. Berkowitz seeking assistance for Ms. Clifford’s case, but he did not relay the request to Ms. Pritzker or any of the other donors with whom he works, and instead recommended Mr. Avenatti reach out to Mr. Brock’s groups.

    Mr. Beychok acknowledged that Mr. Avenatti called him in early March but declined to describe their conversation. Mr. Brock and Mr. Berkowitz declined to comment.

    Mr. Avenatti said he did not recognize the names of Mr. Beychok, Mr. Brock and Mr. Berkowitz, but did not dispute that he or his associates may have reached out to them.

    “We’ve contacted people on the right and the left relating to a variety of issues,” he said. “We have not sought any money from anyone on the right or the left.” In fact, he said, he had turned down “big money” from political donors on both sides of the aisle “because we’re not going to have this politicized.”

    Susie Tompkins Buell, a prominent Clinton donor who gave $500,000 — later refunded — to the effort funded partly by American Bridge to coax Mr. Trump’s accusers to come forward before the election, said she had not heard from Mr. Avenatti.

    “I’m not sure I would be interested in supporting” Mr. Avenatti’s effort, she said. But she added, “I wish them luck.”
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Aug 2005
    Oh boy, if that fart didn't fizzle fast, but not without plenty of drama and speculation, prying and spying, allegations and accusations, and of course a SWARM of Barney Fifes in the ever pathetic US Department of Justice.

    How about them "taxi cab medallions"? Haven't heard a word about them in months. And it seemed so URGENT, barnstorming Cohen's home, office and hotel room? Pathetic.
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    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

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