Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, doubled down Monday on his threat to sue the Daily Caller for libel after a reporter for the conservative news site made public the original warning, contained in an email that Avenatti had asked to remain off the record.
“Just like there is nothing wrong with calling out unethical attorneys, there is nothing wrong with calling out unethical journalists,” Avenatti said in an interview with The Fix.
The Daily Caller published an article Sunday night under the following headline: “With Avenatti in the spotlight, his own questionable past emerges.”
Peter Hasson and Joe Simonson wrote that “Avenatti's past is littered with lawsuits, jilted business partners and bankruptcy filings.”
“When and if we file the defamation action, we will provide, in detail, a litany of the defamatory statements in the article, coupled with the unethical conduct carried out by the Daily Caller,” Avenatti said. He declined to specify which claims in the article he considers defamatory.
One possible point of contention could be a reference to multiple “bankruptcy filings”; the article specifies only one bankruptcy filing despite using the plural. In an email, Hasson told me the plural “filings” reflects that the bankruptcy of Avenatti's old law firm “was filed in Florida court and then transferred over to the Central District of California.”
Hasson added that Avenatti purchased a coffee business that had gone bankrupt.
The phrase “littered with ... bankruptcy filings” seems misleading, given the details, but it might not be enough to propel Avenatti over the high bar set for public figures in libel cases. Avenatti could, of course, complain about other claims in the article.
This is Avenatti's email to Hasson, which Hasson posted on Twitter:
Let me be clear. If you and your colleagues do not stop with the hit pieces that are full of lies and defamatory statements, I will have no choice but to sue each of you and your publication for defamation. During that process, we will expose your publication for what it truly is. We will also recover significant damages against each of you that participated personally. So if I were you, I would tell Mr. Trump to find someone else to fabricate things about me.
If you think I'm kidding, you really don't know anything about me. This is the last warning.
The email reads a bit like a PG version of what President Trump's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said to a Daily Beast reporter in 2015. At the time, journalist Tim Mak, now at NPR, was reporting a story about Ivana Trump's claim that Donald Trump raped her, which she later recanted:
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. So I’m warning you, tread very f---ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f---ing 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.
Cohen's message was nastier and more profane than Avenatti's. Still, the common theme is a threat of financial ruin, inflicted through lawsuits.
In an appearance on CNN in March — during which he called Cohen a “thug” 20 times in 28 seconds — Avenatti criticized Cohen for having threatened Mak.
“I can't state it on cable television, they're so bad,” Avenatti said of Cohen's comments.