Adult-film actress Stormy Daniels said Wednesday that she is debating whether to part ways with her attorney, Michael Avenatti, accusing him of filing a defamation suit against President Trump against her wishes and launching a crowdfunding campaign without her permission.
“I haven’t decided yet what to do about legal representation moving forward,” Daniels said in a statement. “Michael has been a great advocate in many ways. I’m tremendously grateful to him for aggressively representing me in my fight to regain my voice. But in other ways Michael has not treated me with the respect and deference an attorney should show to a client.”
Daniels’s statement, which was first reported by the Daily Beast, is the latest bad news for Avenatti, who was arrested in Los Angeles earlier this month on suspicion of domestic violence. Avenatti, a potential 2020 White House candidate, has called those allegations “completely bogus.” The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has declined to pursue felony domestic abuse charges against him and referred the case to the city attorney for possible misdemeanor charges.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is being represented by Avenatti in two lawsuits. One, a defamation suit against Trump, was dismissed by a federal judge in October; Avenatti is appealing the ruling.
The other lawsuit seeks to void a 2016 nondisclosure agreement that prevented Daniels from discussing her alleged 2006 affair with Trump ahead of the presidential election. Trump denies the affair and has said he will not enforce the agreement.
Daniels said Wednesday that Avenatti had “repeatedly” ignored her requests for information on how money from her supporters was being spent and how much was left. Avenatti then launched a new crowdfunding drive on her behalf “without my permission or even my knowledge,” Daniels said, adding that she learned about the new campaign on Twitter.
A tweet by Avenatti on Tuesday linked to a crowdfunding site featuring photos of Daniels and statements attributed to her, including one that read, “I need funds to pay for: out-of-pocket costs associated with the lawsuit; security expenses; and attorneys’ fees.”
It was not immediately clear whether the website was the one referenced by Daniels in her statement. By Wednesday evening, the page was no longer accessible.
Daniels said Wednesday that while she did not “want to hurt” Avenatti, “it’s time to set the record straight.”
“He has spoken on my behalf without my approval,” she said. “He filed a defamation case against Donald Trump against my wishes. He repeatedly refused to tell me how my legal defense fund was being spent. Now he has launched a new crowdfunding campaign using my face and name without my permission and attributing words to me that I never wrote or said.”
In a statement Wednesday, Avenatti defended his work on behalf of Daniels and said he had “always been an open book” with her, although he did not specifically address Daniels’s allegation that he had filed the defamation suit against her wishes.
“I am and have always been Stormy’s biggest champion,” Avenatti said. “I have personally sacrificed an enormous amount of money, time and energy toward assisting her because I believe in her.”
He said that the agreement Daniels signed in February stipulated that she would pay him $100 and that “any and all other moneys raised via a legal fund would go toward my legal fees and costs.”
“Instead, the vast majority of the money raised has gone toward her security expenses and similar other expenses,” Avenatti said. “The most recent campaign was simply a refresh of the prior campaign, designed to help defray some of Stormy’s expenses.” He did not address whether he had informed Daniels about the newly launched fundraising campaign.
Daniels had said in a CNN interview last month that she and Avenatti were in contact “every single day,” sometimes “three or four times” a day.
Oral arguments in the lawsuit over the nondisclosure agreement will take place in a Los Angeles federal court Dec. 3. Daniels is scheduled to appear at an event at Washington bookstore Politics and Prose to promote her memoir the same day.
Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.