In the past four-and-a-half months, Michael Avenatti has gone from the lawyer representing Trump mistress Stormy Daniels to a news celebrity in his own right. In a series of interviews with The New York Times Magazine, the attorney's media savviness — and its similarities to that of the president — took center stage.
The feature opens during the second Tuesday in the month of May, when Avenatti received a document that alleged Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg deposited $500,000 into the bank account Donald Trump's erstwhile fixer Michael Cohen used to pay Daniels her "hush agreement" money in October 2016.
"If the details were accurate, as Avenatti was certain they were, the two dominant scandals dogging the Trump administration — a supposed 2006 affair between Daniels and Trump and the Robert Mueller-led investigation into election meddling by the Russian government — were about to merge," the report noted.
The attorney was prepared to immediately take the document to the press when he hit a road-bump that would later illustrate his uncanny ability to dominate news cycles — the charge had not yet been independently verified. So he pressed pause, and within a few hours, both the Daily Beast and the Times independently corroborated the document via bank records.
“He’s smart that way,” a political reporter told the Times' Matthew Shaer. “He needs the television for attention, but he leans on print publications to vet the information he uses on TV.”
By Avenatti's estimate, the attorney has been interviewed more than 200 times on network and cable TV.
"Two decades ago, a different Los Angeles lawyer, William Ginsburg, appeared on all five Sunday talk shows on a single morning, in an attempt to vindicate his client, Monica Lewinsky, in the court of public opinion," Shaer wrote. "The feat is known today as 'the Full Ginsburg.' Avenatti has taken Ginsburg’s underlying approach — let the American people be the jury — and updated it for the social-media era."
"He has learned, with practice, to leverage Twitter in much the same manner as the president: as a place to goad ('This is the best Mr. Trump can do?'), a venue for self-aggrandizement ('This is getting too easy') and a direct conduit to an adoring base of supporters," the report continued, noting that paparazzi now follows him to his favorite LA bars.
“There’s a progression happening: We have President Trump because of reality television, and we have Avenatti because of President Trump,” Tom Rosenstiel, media expert and executive director of the American Press Institute, told the Times. “But I’d argue we also have Avenatti because the left so desperately desires an anti-Trump: A person who can elicit the same dopamine reaction in his supporters that Trump can from his.”
“I’m a mercenary,” Avenatti admitted to Shaer. “That’s what people hire me for, and I don’t apologize for it.”
Read the entire profile of the attorney's intuitive steering of the media via The New York Times Magazine.