Michael Avenatti is the current lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, who is suing Donald Trump in two separate lawsuits and recently filed a third lawsuit against Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen, The New York Times reported. Avenatti now says that he is the target of a Russian smear campaign.
“They’re doing it because they see me as a threat, a considerable threat,” Avenatti told The Daily Beast online magazine. “If we weren’t a threat, none of this would be happening.”
He also told the Beast site that a high-ranking United States intelligence official, as well as two separate members of the media, informed him of the alleged Russian campaign to discredit him.
In early May, Avenatti posted a message to his Twitter account stating that “after significant investigation,” he had discovered that Cohen had received $500,000 from a “Russian oligarch with close ties to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.” Subsequent media investigations by NBC News and others confirmed that Avenatti’s allegation was essentially correct.
NBC News reported that Cohen received the payments starting during the transition period after the 2016 presidential election from the American financial firm Columbus Nova, which was operated by the cousin of Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg. They also reported that the money went straight into the same bank account Cohen had used to pay off Daniels for her silence about a sexual encounter with Trump.
That payment went from Cohen to Daniels just days before the election, as the Inquisitr reported earlier this year. Avenatti’s revelation was the first indication that the Daniels scandal may be somehow linked to the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, with Avenatti suggesting in his May 8 Twitter post that the cash from the Vekselberg-linked firm may have been used to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 “hush money” payout to Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. The Inquisitr also reported in March on possible connections between the Russia and Stormy Daniels stories.
The Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s office is currently investigating Cohen over the Daniels payoff and other business dealings, and according to a report by The New York Daily News on Tuesday, Cohen has privately told associates that he expects to be placed under arrest by federal authorities sometime soon.
But when Vanity Fair magazine reporters contacted Cohen to ask for comment on the allegation that he expects to be arrested, Cohen denied it, saying, “your alleged source is wrong!”
Avenatti did not present The Daily Beast with evidence of the Russian smear campaign against him, but said that he believed it would involve an allegation that he had engaged in sexual improprieties during a trip to Moscow — a trip Avenatti denies that he has ever made. He confided in Beast reporter Betsy Woodruff.
“They suggested that I had had a liaison with multiple women in Russia. I found that to be rather ironic. They were trying to claim that I too had taken a trip to Moscow. I’ve never been to Moscow in my life, I’ve never traveled to Russia in my life.”
The U.S. intelligence community has determined that Russian interference in the presidential election was designed at least in part to aid Trump’s bid to win the White House, and in late May, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that it “stretches credulity” to believe that Russian efforts were not responsible for Trump’s election victory, as the news site Vox reported.
Avenatti also claimed that the alleged Russian disinformation campaign against him is trying to portray him as having previously served as a lawyer for Russian and Ukrainian causes with the U.S. government, but Avenatti told Woodruff that he has never represented Russian or Ukrainian interests.