The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Avenatti’s Swan Song: Democrats’ 2020 Nominee Should Be ‘A White Male’

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, on CBS This Morning. (CBS via YouTube)

Making the click-through worthwhile: a series of scandals and gaffes that hopefully represent the last we’ll ever hear from Michael Avenatti, the latest on the suspicious devices being sent in the mail to prominent Democrats, and a historical perspective on the media hyping a young Democrat in Texas.

Lawyer, Liar, Pants on Fire

What is the legal consequence of providing false evidence to a congressional committee? Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels who has been talking about a 2020 presidential campaign, is probably about to find out. You may recall that his client Julie Swetnick walked back a lot of the allegations in her sworn statement about Brett Kavanaugh and a wild accusation of a three-year reign of terror as high schooler organizing group predation of college girls. Now a second woman is saying that Avenatti did not accurately describe what she told him.

NBC News also found other apparent inconsistencies in a second sworn statement from another woman whose statement Avenatti provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bid to bolster Swetnick’s claims.

In the second statement, the unidentified woman said she witnessed Kavanaugh “spike” the punch at high school parties in order to sexually take advantage of girls. But less than 48 hours before Avenatti released her sworn statement on Twitter, the same woman told NBC News a different story.

Referring to Kavanaugh spiking the punch, “I didn’t ever think it was Brett,” the woman said to reporters in a phone interview arranged by Avenatti on Sept. 30 after repeated requests to speak with other witnesses who might corroborate Swetnick’s claims. As soon as the call began, the woman said she never met Swetnick in high school and never saw her at parties and had only become friends with her when they were both in their 30s.

When asked in the phone interview if she ever witnessed Kavanaugh act inappropriately towards girls, the woman replied, “no.” She did describe a culture of heavy drinking in high school that she took part in and said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were part of that group.

But reached by phone independently from Avenatti on Oct. 3, the woman said she only “skimmed” the declaration. After reviewing the statement, she wrote in a text on Oct. 4 to NBC News: “It is incorrect that I saw Brett spike the punch. I didn’t see anyone spike the punch…I was very clear with Michael Avenatti from day one.”

NBC then described Avenatti trying to get the woman to change her story again, in response to the network’s questioning. After several days, she texted NBC News, “I will definitely talk to you again and no longer Avenatti. I do not like that he twisted my words.”

“Sworn statements” are supposed to be considered more reliable because the person making the statement is declaring them “under penalty of perjury that the forgoing is true and correct.” They are not press releases or advertising. This is why you should do more than “skim” a legal document being sent to Congress in your name.

(An odd contrast: Donald Trump and his companies have been involved in 3,500 legal actions in the past three decades. He estimates that he’s given about 100 depositions and testified in court about 100 times. He’s got a reputation as a notorious, even pathological liar or at best a serial exaggerator . . . and yet somehow Trump’s never been charged with or convicted of perjury. He backs down from implausible claims, and a lot of the bluster disappears. For a man who loves taking risks, Trump sure knows how to get cautious when the consequences are high enough.)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley referred all of the contradictions to the sworn statements to the Department of Justice, and noted that the committee spoke with “45 individuals, obtained 25 written statements and reviewed numerous other materials” but could not find “any information to corroborate Ms. Swetnick’s claims.”

It’s good that NBC News did this story. But it raises tough questions about how the media will treat Avenatti from now on. Swetnick’s sworn statement does not match her account of the events told to NBC. This other woman’s sworn statement does not match her account of the events told to NBC. And Avenatti pursued a longshot “defamation” lawsuit on behalf of Stormy Daniels against President Trump and now Daniels has to pay Trump’s legal fees — which, with four lawyers working for six months, is probably going to be a hefty sum. (Avenatti insists that he’ll win bigger damages for Daniels against Trump in a separate lawsuit.)

Does . . . Michael Avenatti really operate in the best interests of his clients? Are these women better off now than before they met him?

The irony is that might not even be Thursday’s most damaging news story for Avenatti. He sat down for an interview with Time magazine, and basically said the Democratic party shouldn’t nominate a woman or a minority for president in 2020.

“I think it better be a white male,” Avenatti said of the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. “When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.”

Besides shameless and self-serving — par for the course for Avenatti — his argument is historically illiterate. We just had a two-term African-American president! Women have been elected to statewide offices in 49 out of the 50 states. The holdout is that notorious bastion of right-wing misogyny . . . er, Vermont. Forty states have elected minorities to statewide office. The electorate didn’t have a problem with a woman president. The electorate had a problem with that particular woman as president.

Then Avenatti told the Daily Caller that he never made such a statement. The Time interview describes him “leaning back in an easy chair in his well-appointed New Hampshire hotel suite” and the article begins with describing Avenatti at a mid-August event in New Hampshire.

And the other irony is that this might not even be the most embarrassing Avenatti news story of the week! Monday was pretty bad, too:

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels, was hit with a personal judgment of $4.85 million Monday for his failure to pay a debt to a former colleague at his longtime Newport Beach firm.

Less than an hour after his defeat in the Los Angeles lawsuit, Avenatti suffered another setback at a trial in Orange County: The Irvine Co. won a court order evicting him and his staff from their offices because the firm, Eagan Avenatti, skipped the last four months of rent.

That trial described checks bouncing. If Avenatti’s spending way more than he can afford, maybe he’s more suited for government work than we thought.

The Latest on the Suspicious Package Deliveries

We’re up to twelve suspicious packages, as of this writing: George Soros, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Eric Holder (addressed to him incorrectly, returned to the office of Debbie Wasserman Schultz), two to Maxine Waters, one to John Brennan care of CNN, two packages to Joe Biden, Robert DeNiro, and just breaking this morning, a package addressed to Cory Booker, and a package addressed to James Clapper, care of CNN again.

You’re going to hear a lot of people arguing whether the devices were meant to merely look like bombs, or whether they could function as bombs. We shouldn’t expect authorities to shed too much light on this until the perpetrator is caught, because the inability to detonate could be accidental. The police can’t say, “yeah, it wouldn’t have gone off because he’s using the wrong kind of wires” or anything like that, to tip him off or any potential copycats out there.

You can see the thinking on the Right: “These are non-functioning bombs because the bomber didn’t really want to hurt anyone. It’s a Leftist who wants to make Trump supporters and Republicans look bad. This is designed to take over the news cycle two weeks before Election Day, and feed the narrative that Trump supporters are violent and dangerous.”

And that could be the case! Or it may not. We just don’t have enough information to rule anything out at this point. It could also be what many of the Left suspect: “This is a dangerous and deranged individual who loves the president and hates all of his critics.”

The sender could be building them to not function, because as angry as he is, he only wants to scare his targets, not kill them. Or he may just not be all that skilled at building bombs.

But a lot of people out there have skipped straight to casting blame, offering some variation of, “We don’t know who’s responsible, but we know who’s really ultimately responsible.” They’re much less interested in determining criminal culpability than establishing political culpability.

Texas Political History Repeats Itself

My article about the media’s passionate love affair with Beto O’Rourke and his campaign in the latest issue of NR is out from behind the paywall. Way back in 1996, I was a hapless and intimidated intern in the Washington Bureau of the Dallas Morning News, just thrilled to get the occasional assignment to cover stories like the National Spelling Bee. I was working in the office after little-known schoolteacher Victor Morales won the Democratic Senate primary, and I remember how most of the reporters and editors at the bureau reacted like it was an earthquake story. Morales’s win was a huge surprise, and marked history as the first Latino Senate candidate of either party, but even back then as a right-leaning polywog I remember thinking, “Okay, slow down, this is a feel-good story, but he’s not going to beat Phil Gramm.” The incumbent Republican senator who had just ended his presidential campaign went on to win by 11 points, but you would never be able to tell from the national ,media coverage of 1996 that Morales had no real shot.

Twenty-two years have passed, and the national media is still getting wildly excited about a young, photogenic Democratic candidate running statewide in Texas.

As Detective Rust Cohle told us, “Time is a flat circle.” 

ADDENDUM: All right: “The economy looks like it will expand above a 3% rate in 2018. That hasn’t happened since 2005.”

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