Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Donald Trump escalated his battle against Trump on Thursday, penning an op-ed essay calling for the indictment of Trump. Avenatti has said he is a possible 2020 presidential candidate, as The Atlantic reported
The op-ed was published in the nation’s largest circulation and arguably most prestigious newspaper, the New York Times, a paper that Trump has adopted as a personal nemesis, repeatedly referring on Twitter to the publication as “the Failing New York Times.”
The New York Times chose to publish Avenatti’s essay calling for Trump’s indictment just eight days after the paper published an anonymous op-ed by a “senior official” in the Trump While House, detailing how members of Trump’s own administration have formed a “resistance” against him.
Trump is reportedly obsessed with ferreting out the anonymous op-ed author, and now fears a “coup” against him from inside his own White House, according to a Vanity Fair report. As a result, according to the legal site Law & Crime, the NYT is “likely to face some pushback” over its publication of the Avenatti op-ed.
“No grand jury has ever indicted a president, and consequently no court, let alone the Supreme Court, has ruled on the critical question of whether the Constitution allows a president to be indicted while in office,” Avenatti wrote. “It is time to clarify the issue.”
In the essay, Avanetti directly addressed the issue raised by Trump’s current Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, according to Vox, who has written that presidents should be immune from indictment while in office, because “it vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible.” Kavanaugh also argued that the constitutional process of impeachment, not criminal indictment, should be used to remedy presidential wrongdoing.
But Avenatti countered that Trump already appears highly distracted — and that impeachment would also be an enormous distraction.
“This is a White House already engulfed in chaos and daily distractions. And if the House were to initiate impeachment proceedings, it is hard to see how that process would be any less distracting than a criminal indictment,” he wrote.
Avenatti said that a ruling in a legal case brought against President Bill Clinton during Clinton’s term in office established that incumbent presidents could be indicted. In the 1997 Clinton v. Jones decision, Avenatti noted, the Supreme Court held “that a sitting president has no immunity from civil litigation in federal court from acts done before taking office and unrelated to duties as president.”