Michael Avenatti, the outspoken attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, says the Russian government is trying to smear him in the press. Avenatti told The Daily Beast that people in the Kremlin have been trying to plant damaging stories about him in media outlets.
Avenatti did not offer concrete proof to support the claim, but said two media figures and a high-ranking American intelligence official have all told him about the alleged Russian effort.
“They’re doing it because they see me as a threat, a considerable threat,” he said. “If we weren’t a threat, none of this would be happening.”
Avenatti’s client Stormy Daniels is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. She is looking to get out of a legal agreement she signed weeks before the 2016 election that bars her from discussing an affair she says she had with President Donald Trump. Trump denies the affair, but admitted to authorizing a payout to Daniels.
Avenatti has become a prominent media figure over the course of the legal fight, appearing frequently on cable news to talk about the effort. He’s made some seemingly-outlandish claims that have proved to be true. For example, in May, he released documents alleging that a company linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg—a Putin ally who is currently under U.S. sanctions—funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cohen. Numerous media outlets, including The Daily Beast, confirmed Avenatti’s allegations about Vekselberg.
“How the fuck did Avenatti find out?” a source asked The Daily Beast at the time.
Avenatti said people in the Russian government have claimed that he traveled to Moscow and had questionable encounters with women there.
“They were trying to claim that I too had taken a trip to Moscow,” Avenatti said. “I’ve never been to Moscow in my life, I’ve never traveled to Russia in my life.”
“They suggested that I had had a liaison with multiple women in Russia,” he added. “I found that to be rather ironic.”
A dossier written by former spy Christopher Steele and viewed widely in the highest levels of the United States Intelligence Community alleges that the Russians secretly videotaped Trump having a sexual encounter with several prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room several years ago. The allegation has not been confirmed.
Avenatti said Russians have also been saying he previously represented Russian and Ukrainian legal interests before the U.S. government. He said he has never represented any Russian or Ukrainian entities.
“I think I’ve been nervous for the entirety of the case,” he said. “Certainly this raises the stakes. But we’re not going to pack up and go home. I’m not going to change what I’m doing just because the Russians don’t like it.”
Avenatti’s work for Stormy Daniels––whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford––has rattled the White House. Keith Munyan, a friend of Daniels mentioned in her non-disclosure agreement, told The Daily Beast that Trump offered her a spot on The Apprentice and proposed she move into Trump Tower in Tampa, Florida. He said Daniels would let him listen in on speakerphone when Trump made frequent phone calls to her.
“She would go, ‘Oh, look who’s calling me now,’ and would put him on the phone,” Munyan said.