Michael Avenatti, the brash lawyer and cable news fixture who came to prominence after he sued President Trump on behalf of an adult-film star, was arrested Wednesday in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic violence, police said.
The incident happened Tuesday, department spokesman Jeff Lee said. Another police spokesman, Tony Im, told the Associated Press that the victim has visible injuries. But police gave few other details about the incident, saying in a tweet: “This is an ongoing investigation and we will provide more details as they become available.”
Avenatti has made himself a virtual household name through his relentless media appearances as he represents adult-film star Stormy Daniels in two lawsuits against Trump. He has vowed to depose the president and said he is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
In a statement released by his law office Wednesday, Avenatti said that the allegations against him were “completely bogus.”
“I have never been physically abusive in my life nor was I last night,” he said. “Any accusations to the contrary are fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation. I look forward to being fully exonerated.”
On Thursday, the attorney suggested in a tweet that far-right conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl was to blame for the arrest. In a subsequent tweet, he criticized some of the coverage of his arrest.
There is a lot of inaccurate reporting out there. For example, (1) I have NOT been charged with anything, let alone a felony; (2) Lisa wasn't even with me Tues; etc. Numerous other "facts" being reported are completely bogus. Why is TMZ's news "standard" the new standard?— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) November 15, 2018
TMZ, which first reported the arrest, initially wrote that Avenatti was taken into custody after his “estranged wife” filed a felony domestic violence report. TMZ later amended its story after his second wife, Lisa Storie-Avenatti, said through a lawyer that the assertion was not true.
“Ms. Storie-Avenatti was not subject to any such incident on Tuesday night. Further, she was not at Mr. Avenatti’s apartment on the date that this alleged incident occurred,” Storie-Avenatti’s statement said. “My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone.”
Avenatti’s first wife also came to his defense on social media, calling him a “loving father” who has “never been abusive.”
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, said during an appearance Thursday at England’s student debating society, Oxford Union: “Right now, they are just allegations, and I’m going to reserve judgment. And I hope everyone does — I know what it feels like to be on the other end of that — until all of the details are discovered.”
She added, though, that “if the allegations turn out to be true, then I will definitely be seeking new representation, because I cannot condone or support someone who is abusive.”
Police said Avenatti was arrested around 2 p.m. Wednesday. He spoke briefly to reporters after he was released from custody Wednesday evening, thanking the police department for its professionalism.
“They had no option in light of the allegations,” he said. “Secondly, I have never struck a woman. I never will strike a woman. I have been an advocate for women’s rights my entire career.”
Avenatti is one of many media personalities who have grown into political celebrities in the contentious and lightning-quick news climate of the Trump era. His combativeness and swagger — on television, in interviews and on Twitter — have helped keep him in the public eye, and his musings about a potential presidential run have been covered extensively despite questions about his background and qualifications.
Avenatti has also launched a political action committee and spoken at Democratic events across the country. But his media savvy has also landed him in hot water. Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick, who alleged in a sworn affidavit that she was gang-raped at a 1982 party attended by Brett M. Kavanaugh, have been referred by the Republican leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Justice Department for a potential criminal probe over doubts about her claims during Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Avenatti continues to represent Daniels in two lawsuits against Trump, with whom she claims to have had an affair. One, claiming that Trump defamed her, was tossed out in federal court; Avenatti is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The other seeks to formally invalidate a 2016 nondisclosure agreement that prevented Daniels from discussing her alleged affair with Trump in the lead-up to the election. Trump, who denies he had an affair with Daniels, has said he will not enforce the agreement.
Trump lawyer Charles Harder noted that three legal motions in the cases are scheduled for oral arguments in a Los Angeles federal court Dec. 3.
The Vermont Democratic Party announced late Wednesday that it was canceling events scheduled with Avenatti in light of his arrest.
“The Vermont Democratic Party has canceled Mr. Avenatti’s forthcoming scheduled appearances in Vermont, and will be refunding all ticket sales,” state party spokesman R. Christopher Di Mezzo said in a statement.
Isaac Stanley-Becker in Oxford, Noah Smith in Los Angeles and Felicia Sonmez in Washington contributed to this report.