Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Allan Smith
Porn star Stormy Daniels on Wednesday accused her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, of filing a defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump against her wishes, an allegation Avenatti said he was “very” surprised by.
Daniels, in a statement first reported by The Daily Beast, said that in addition to the defamation case, her attorney “has spoken on my behalf without my approval,” as well as started a new fundraising site to raise money for her without her knowledge.
In a phone interview with NBC News, Avenatti said he was surprised by her statement detailing the allegations, and said “a number of things” in it were “not accurate.” He did not elaborate on what was inaccurate.
“For months I’ve asked Michael Avenatti to give me accounting information about the fund my supporters so generously donated to for my safety and legal defense,” Daniels said in the statement, obtained by NBC News. “He has repeatedly ignored those requests.”
She said she hasn’t yet decided “what to do about legal representation moving forward,” adding that “Michael has been a great advocate in many ways.”
She continued: “But in other ways Michael has not treated me with the respect and deference an attorney should show to a client. He has spoken on my behalf without my approval. He filed a defamation case against Donald Trump against my wishes. He repeatedly refused to tell me how my legal defense fund was being spent. Now he has launched a new crowdfunding campaign using my face and name without my permission and attributing words to me that I never wrote or said. I’m deeply grateful to my supporters and they deserve to know their money is being spent responsibly. I don’t want to hurt Michael, but it’s time to set the record straight. The truth has always been my greatest ally.”
Avenatti, in an additional statement to NBC News, said he is and “have always been Stormy’s biggest champion.”
“You need only look back at her numerous prior interviews where she states we talk and communicate multiple times every day about her cases,” he said. “The retention agreement Stormy signed back in February provided that she would pay me $100.00 and that any and all other monies raised via a legal fund would go toward my legal fees and costs. Instead, the vast majority of the money raised has gone toward her security expenses and similar other expenses. The most recent campaign was simply a refresh of the prior campaign, designed to help defray some of Stormy’s expenses.”
Avenatti became nationally known as Daniels’ attorney as the pair fought to free the porn star from a $130,000 non-disclosure agreement she signed with Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, just weeks prior to the 2016 presidential election to stay quiet about her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump.
Trump denied the affair took place and claimed to know nothing of the agreement when it was struck. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to a series of federal crimes, including campaign finance violations in connection with hush-money payments he said he helped arrange at Trump’s request. Trump and his legal team have said that Cohen lacks any credibility.
Avenatti has taken a highly public and confrontational approach in his representation of Daniels, but his legal efforts have fallen short at some junctures. One such instance involved that defamation lawsuit against Trump, which Avenatti filed in April. The attorney argued that Trump defamed his client when he tweeted that she participated in a “total con job.” That suit was dismissed in November, with a judge ordering Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees.
Daniels’ current CrowdJustice site has raised about $5,000 after it launched nearly a month ago. An earlier CrowdJustice page for Daniels raised more than $580,000 and is now closed to donations.
Avenatti, a fixture on cable news who has flirted with a 2020 presidential bid in recent months, has raised money for Democratic candidates and traveled to early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Earlier this month, he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, allegations he insists are not true. Daniels said at the time that she would wait and see what came of the allegations before making a decision on Avenatti’s future as her attorney.
Sarah Fitzpatrick and Abigail Russ contributed.