Michael Avenatti has become a near-ubiquitous presence on cable news in recent weeks and months, so much so that speculation has inevitably arisen suggesting he may get his own network show. This week he even broke a major story in his own right, revealing that President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen used a shell company since the election to take payments from major companies, including one backed by a Russian oligarch.
But while Avenatti attracts substantial attention and has created serious problems for the president, Trump largely ignores the media-savvy attorney.
Since Trump prides himself on "counterpunching" and going after his critics, it is suspicious that he remains silent on the man representing Stephanie Clifford, who is better known as Stormy Daniels. Clifford is suing Trump and Cohen to break a non-disclosure agreement she signed that requires her to keep quiet about an affair she says she had with the president in 2006.
According to the Daily Beast, sources close to the president say he has no interest in going after Avenatti, whom he calls a "total loser." Some Republicans reportedly believe that attacking Avenatti would only raise his status. But Trump famously attacked former Miss Universe contestant Alicia Machado during the 2016 campaign, even though there was clearly no benefit in doing so. It seemed, then, that he couldn't help himself.
Perhaps Trump has learned to control himself, if only somewhat. But there's also the possibility that Trump is genuinely afraid of what Avenatti could find out. This week's revelations — which have been largely corroborated — prove that the lawyer had a stronger hand than it initially appeared.
Cohen may be a major weak link in any defense Trump tries to build against his legal troubles. Reports suggest that Trump was infuriated when Cohen's office was raided by federal investigators in a case that was supposedly connected to Clifford's lawsuit. But the newest revelations indicate that Mueller may actually be more involved in the Cohen case than previously assumed, which raises even more legal perils for the president.
As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said in an interview Friday, Cohen comes from Trump's business with a "seedy underbelly." Trump likely fears Avenatti could be the one to expose that underbelly — and it's hard to say what he'll find.