By Kevin Daley
Attorney Michael Avenatti believes he is well positioned for a 2020 presidential bid, despite a dramatic shift in personal and professional fortunes.
In the last six weeks, Avenatti has been arrested on a domestic violence charge, broken with his star client Stephanie Clifford in a dispute over fundraising and strategy, and been referred to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation in connection with his representation of Julie Swetnick.
“I think the field is shaping up to be even more advantageous for someone like me, not less,” Avenatti told Politico Sunday. “I think my chances have only gone up, not gone down.”
Since emerging as a spirited antagonist of President Donald Trump, Avenatti was a regular presence among Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, the trio of early nominating states that help curate the field of presidential contenders. His visits drew enthusiastic supporters and favorable reviews.
Whatever his political ambitions may be, Avenatti has been beset with legal and ethical quandaries since Nov. 14, when he was arrested for domestic violence. The actress Mareli Miniutti alleges Avenatti dragged her by the arm across the floor of his apartment. Avenatti posted $50,000 bail after the arrest.
Though initially arrested on a felony charge, local prosecutors are now processing the matter as a misdemeanor. He has not yet been charged.
Following the arrest, Clifford revealed that Avenatti has repeatedly refused to provide an accounting of funds expended for her case. Clifford has relied primarily on crowdfunding measures to finance her legal representation. She went on to say that she did not authorize Avenatti to file a defamation suit against Trump, a charge which, if true, is a sanctionable offense.
“I haven’t decided yet what to do about legal representation moving forward,” Clifford told The Daily Beast.
Avenatti also faces scrutiny for his representation of Swetnick, whose allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh became increasingly inconsistent and contradictory. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley asked the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate the matter on Oct. 25.
His letter alleges that Avenatti and Swetnick engaged in “a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation.” Both deny the charge.
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