The request to bar Avenatti, filed in federal court in Manhattan late Wednesday, alleges he may have improperly obtained Cohen’s private banking records and breached legal canon by arguing his case publicly rather than through the courts.
It comes a day after Avenatti publicly released a dossier that appears to describe bank records detailing payments to Cohen from corporate clients in the wake of Trump’s election.
Avenatti has “deliberately distorted information from the records which appear to be in his possession for the purpose of creating a toxic mix of misinformation,” the lawyers wrote in a letter addressed to Judge Kimba M. Wood, who is hearing the case in New York.
Cohen’s lawyers argued that some of the transactions described in the dossier related to other people with the name Michael Cohen — including a Canadian citizen and a man who resides in Israel.
And they said that he misrepresented money paid to Cohen by Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment firm linked to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who attended Trump’s inauguration.
Columbus Nova has confirmed that it had hired Cohen as a consultant but has denied any involvement by Vekselberg.
Avenatti called the complaint from Cohen’s lawyers “baseless, improper and sanctionable.” He said they failed “to address, let alone contradict, 99% of the statements in what we released.”
Some of the corporate clients listed in Avenatti’s dossier have confirmed they hired Cohen, including telecommunications giant AT&T, aircraft manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries and pharmaceutical company Novartis.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general, Eric Thorson, announced Wednesday he was launching a probe examining how the banking records became public.
The document distributed by Avenatti details money that flowed into Essential Consultants, a company Cohen set up in fall 2016 to pay Daniels $130,000 as part of a confidentiality agreement to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter she allegedly had with Trump.
Cohen has said he facilitated the payment using his own money from a home-equity line of credit. Daniels’s suit in California seeks to void the confidentiality agreement.
The president has denied the affair, but his lawyer, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, recently said that Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment.
FBI agents last month raided Cohen’s office and residences looking for evidence in an investigation into whether Cohen violated banking, campaign finance and wire fraud statutes.
Cohen’s lawyers have sought to restrict prosecutors’ access to the seized material, arguing much of it was probably confidential communications between Cohen and his legal clients.