Joe and Elie welcome Michael Avenatti to talk about him challenging Michael Cohen and Donald Trump over their treatment of his client, as well as his thoughts on the 2020 presidential candidates.
Michael Avenatti is a high-profile American attorney, commentator and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles, California. He routinely appears on...
Joe and Elie welcome Michael Avenatti, Above the Law’s 2018 Lawyer of the Year. It’s hard to say any attorney owned 2018 like Avenatti who stormed (see what I did there?) onto the scene challenging Michael Cohen and Donald Trump over their treatment of his client. In a wide-ranging interview, Avenatti tells Joe and Elie (with a cameo appearance by ATL editor Staci Zaretsky) about his career, his assessment of the 2020 presidential race he thought about joining and of course his marquee 2018 matter and the strategy that went into it.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Smith.ai.
Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer
The Michael Avenatti Interview
Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture, all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: Hello. Welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. Before we get started I am going to quickly say thank you to Smith.ai, who is of course sponsoring the show.
I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law. With me, as always, is Elie Mystal from Above the Law. But also we are joined by Staci Zaretsky of Above the Law. It’s a big Above the Law love in today.
Elie Mystal: How are you doing Staci?
Staci Zaretsky: I am great. How are you?
Elie Mystal: I got lobster roll on my shirt, but it’s purple so it’s all good, nobody is going to know, except for the people I just told.
Joe Patrice: Right, which is everybody. So yeah, no, so how are you doing today Elie?
Elie Mystal: Not great Bob.
Joe Patrice: You are not great. So this is where we grind our gears, as frequent listeners of the show know, what is really bothering you today?
Elie Mystal: One of my favorite actors, one of my favorite Jedis apparently —
Joe Patrice: Is it Jedis or is it Jedi.
Elie Mystal: Jedi.
Joe Patrice: Isn’t it already plural?
Elie Mystal: Right, you are right, good correction, one of my favorite Jedi, Qui-Gon, apparently spent a week trolling the alleys of the UK looking for “a black bastard” to kill out of revenge for a friend of his that was sexually assaulted.
Joe Patrice: If he would have only started with Darth Vader, then we wouldn’t have had any trouble.
Elie Mystal: I have a problem with this.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, that makes sense.
Elie Mystal: As a potential black bastard, I have a problem with this.
Joe Patrice: Fair enough.
Elie Mystal: And I want to bring — I know a lot of our — we do have a diverse set of listeners here; however, most of you are white, and I want to bring you inside a little bit to some of the real debate that’s happening in the black community, because on the one side you have a lot of African-American people, a lot of black Europeans who are saying, you know what, he didn’t actually kill anybody and we have just got too many crazy-ass white people who actually will kill people to worry about Liam Neeson and his like revenge fantasy killing, this is not a real issue.
On the other side, you basically have like me and like Charles Blow, who are like no, no, no, no, this is actually a terrible problem. And while yes, I am so super happy that Liam Neeson was able to keep it together enough to not commit a hate crime, good job boyo, I have a bit of a problem.
Put it like this guys, if you can imagine being like the waiter who served Liam Neeson, the black waiter who served Liam Neeson during his like week-long rage fest, like would that have been a good table for you to wait on, like what is he going to say, right? I don’t know what you are asking for, but I will tell you I have no money. What I do have is a particular set of hate. That makes me a nightmare for waiters like you.
Like this is — the kind of — the casual racism, and look, I am being — I am trying to be a little bit funny, but like casual racism still hurts people, right? It still makes people have a bad day. It still makes people have an extra drink of alcohol. It still makes people — it diminishes my enjoyment of my own life when some random guy is angry at me for no reason other than the color of my skin.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: And that’s why what Liam said is a problem, not because like okay, now we have to cancel Liam Neeson and like burn our Taken DVDs, we have to understand that this kind of casual racial hate is still not good and should still be criticized.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, I think that’s fair. Yeah, and in a week that had its share of racial missteps.
Elie Mystal: Black History Month.
Joe Patrice: Right. One of my friends put it best on Twitter, which was, it said something like what if we all just stop Black History Month and start it over and see if it works right, because it’s time for a reboot.
Well, anyway, there we go, that was our grinding of the gears. Real quick, we are going to do our ad read because that’s what we are here for.
So are you missing calls, are you spread too thin, interruptions kill your productivity, but clients demand a quick response? The US-based professional receptionists at Smith.ai help law firms screen new clients and schedule appointments by phone and website chat. Plus, Smith.ai integrates with your software, including Clio and LawPay. Plans start at just $60 per month. Get a free trial at Smith.ai.
All right Elie, so with that said, we have a contest here at Above the Law and that contest is for the Lawyer of the Year and so we have the Lawyer of the Year here. So Staci why don’t you actually run us through what we have got on tap for today’s show.
Staci Zaretsky: For today’s show we have our 2018 Lawyer of the Year Michael Avenatti. You may know him as representing Stormy Daniels.
Elie Mystal: You may remember him from putting his foot up Donald Trump’s ass.
Staci Zaretsky: That too.
Elie Mystal: Mr. Avenatti, are you there?
Michael Avenatti: I am. It’s great to join you.
Elie Mystal: Thanks so much for coming on and congratulations on your award.
Michael Avenatti: Well, thank you. You know, when I ran through the list of past recipients, it’s a rather impressive list, to say the least, so I am humbled and honored by the inclusion.
Elie Mystal: Yeah. Look, we usually do it just — it’s a user poll, so you have the will of the people behind you.
Look, since we have you on, I don’t want to soft sell anything. This podcast has a lot of legal listeners and I think one of the most obvious questions for our kind of practitioner audience is how did you just get, like what was the closing of the deal for you to get Stormy Daniels as a client?
Here at Above the Law we know some porn lawyers, right, like one of our, I guess he used to be a friend of the show, I don’t know if he still is, since he has gone full dark side, but Marc Randazza used to be a friend of the show, we understand that community. That’s not your community, so how did this relationship develop? How did you get the client?
Michael Avenatti: Well, you are correct, it’s not my community and I had never previously represented anyone in the porn industry during my nearly 20 years of practice; even though I have been practicing in Southern California for many, many years. I had had other opportunities to represent adult film actors, producers, companies and had declined all of those offers of representation for various reasons.
And frankly, when this opportunity presented itself, a lot of people have a very difficult time going back in time and thinking about what people knew and what they did not know at that particular point in time. I first met Stormy Daniels in February of last year; in fact, it hasn’t even been a year, it seems like it’s been a lot longer than that obviously for a bunch of reasons.
But I first met her in February of last year. I was referred — she was referred to me by another lawyer, and I was very skeptical. Prior to the meeting I had significant doubts as to whether I was even going to get involved. I came to that meeting with preconceived notions and misconceptions about what she was going to be all about.
I prejudged her, if you will, which is entirely inappropriate, but we do it all the time unfortunately, and within about 30 minutes or less she blew me away by her level of intelligence and how insightful she was, how humble she was, her degree of commonsense and we really hit it off and I decided shortly thereafter that I would be willing to represent her.
Elie Mystal: Can you talk a little bit about the — to the extent that you can about the vetting process, because I think that, I don’t want to speak for you, but certainly the preconceived notion that I would have had if representing a client in the adult film industry is that as a lawyer your reputation is on the line kind of everyday with every client that you represent. How do you vet a story like this and a claim like this to get yourself to the point where you are confident that you can put your reputation — align your reputation with hers?
Michael Avenatti: Well, that’s a great question and I have been asked a lot of questions in a lot of interviews over the last year and no one has asked me that question, so thank you for that question. We went through an extensive vetting process relating to Stormy and her story, her recollection of events after she retained me in our office, my office, and before we filed the complaint a few weeks later, we did go through an extensive vetting process.
But you make an excellent point that I think has been lost throughout this process. I was very fortunate prior to meeting Stormy Daniels to have had a substantial legal career, a number of very large verdicts and settlements, over a billion dollars as lead counsel, including a $4 million jury verdict in April of 2017, which was the third largest in the country, and I was fortunate enough to get a lot of awards for that verdict.
So I had a substantial career. I was very, again, fortunate to have been — to have had a lot of great clients who entrusted me with a lot of very big cases that were important to them, cases that had been on 60 Minutes and the like. So I took a huge risk, a huge risk by taking on Stormy and her case and her cause, and at that point things looked a lot different than they do today, a lot different.
Stormy had been on Jimmy Kimmel. There had been some press around this. There had been more press around the “Make America Horny Again” tour, which was her tour that she had launched. Her case and her cause and the way that America viewed her was entirely different than it is today.
And I think that the change has been brought about by certainly her, but also, not to be egotistical, but by the strategy that I employed and the way that we rolled this case out and the way that we identified that the court of public opinion was going to be of critical importance and because of the media strategy that we used, which I took a lot of heat over, over the weeks and the months and I think there is a lot of jealousy in the profession about the way that I went about it.
But you know what, it was spot on, and I say that unapologetically. If it had been handled in a different way, there is no way that we would be where we are today. There is no way that Michael Cohen would have pled. Things would look very, very differently but for Stormy Daniels.
Elie Mystal: No, look, I think if you hadn’t played it that way, Michael Cohen might still be free.
But the flip side of that is that while yes, you played it correctly for this client in this situation, I guess the next kind of practitioner question is how is it affecting your ability to attract new business and new clients and other clients who maybe don’t want the media attention that now just by dint of your name that you are going to bring to any case going forward?
Michael Avenatti: Yeah, that’s another great question. And I do think that that is certainly a downside. There has been a lot of tremendous upside associated with this representation, the notoriety, the name recognition has certainly been flattering, positive for the most part, has led to a lot of additional business. We get hundreds of calls and inquiries a day from people that want me and us to represent them.
Now, some of those are, how do I say, wing nut calls, like people that have chips supposedly installed in their foot by way of the CIA and things like that, but a number of the other calls are legitimate cases and we vet those cases to determine who we are going to represent.
Now, on the flip side, as you pointed out, there are people that I think shy away from hiring me because of the notoriety, but I think net-net; in fact, I don’t think, I know, net-net it’s been very, very positive.
Although, I will say that one of the things that is not understood until you are really involved in a case like this, when you take on a case of this magnitude, with this much scrutiny, that is this high profile, it really dominates your life, and in a lot of ways it dominates your practice.
And especially in an environment right now that is so toxic, this political environment, it is more toxic than any environment I have ever seen before, I used to be involved in politics for many, many years, worked on over 150 campaigns back in the 90s, so I am not new to the game, but when you throw your hat into this ring, you subject yourself and your family, your practice and others to a huge degree of scrutiny and highly likely unfair attacks by people that aren’t really interested in the truth. They just want to damage you. They just want to do collateral damage to you and your reputation in the interest of politics and to further their own viewpoints and their own agendas. And truth really goes out the window at that point, to a significant degree.
So a lot of people see how much television exposure I have gotten and the notoriety and they think that this has just been one great ride, it’s just been nothing but positive for me, but that’s really not true. I mean you take something like this on, you sacrifice an enormous amount on the personal side.
And on the flip side, this has not been a financial boom for me or my firm, by any stretch of the imagination. I mean we haven’t been paid basically anything in connection with this representation. The money that was raised went to out-of-pocket costs including Stormy’s security expenses, which had been hundreds of thousands of dollars, et cetera, and I don’t get paid for interviews on CNN and MSNBC. Some people think that somehow I am on their payroll, well, I am not on their payroll.
So there has been a lot of sacrifice by me, other people in my firm and certainly by Stormy.
Joe Patrice: Actually I have a question to go down a complete side note. You mentioned security costs for Stormy. One of the things that editorially a decision we kind of made — well, at least I did over here was to stop the standard AP style of saying, Stormy Daniels, whose given name is blah, blah, blah, I kind of stopped that because I felt like that was exposing — like contributing to and exposing her to threats and trouble that she didn’t really deserve.
Was that a large part do you think of why security costs became a whole thing that the media was going around and letting everybody know, hey, this is who you should look up?
Michael Avenatti: I don’t think that that really contributed to the security cost. I mean I think just the nature of this case, the nature of the belief, rightfully so, that this could be an Achilles heel to Trump and his presidency. The stakes in this thing are enormous, and a lot of people are very, very nervous about it, and have been very, very nervous about it, relating to what it could result in. And I think that’s why both her and I have become targets.
Joe Patrice: Now, on the subject of how your practice has gotten into — like been under assault after you became more famous, you had this issue with some partner who came out and says that they are owed monies. What’s going on with that case at this point or are you still litigating and not ready to — not able to do much?
Michael Avenatti: Yeah, we are still litigating. I mean it was a partner in name only. It was a non-equity partner at the firm, more of an employee frankly who claimed that he was entitled a bunch of money and we are still in the process of battling that out, but that would be an example of something that gets blown out of proportion, like so many other things that people can make hay out of in connection with something like this.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: I didn’t know it was non-equity. I thought it was —
Joe Patrice: Oh no, no, yeah. No, that is one of the —
Elie Mystal: It’s like Law360 on this, non-equity partner, I am like, oh.
Joe Patrice: I mean no, that’s been a detail of this case is the disagreement over that, yeah, definitely.
Elie Mystal: Since you kind of brought it up, I want to segue a little bit into your political background and your thoughts there, but I want to start by talking a little bit about where you are kind of hit the hardest, which is Twitter. Your Twitter game is strong and your Twitter game can be vicious and the Twitter game coming at you is vicious.
Like we talk to a lot of attorneys who think about getting on to Twitter and would have nightmares about getting on to your Twitter kind of thing. How do you — I mean I guess, A, when did you decide that you were going to take on this particularly aggressive Twitter persona, and kind of, B, what’s your feelings on Twitter, especially in a world where Twitter we now realize is so important to our politics because we live in the worst timeline?
Michael Avenatti: Well, let me say this. So I am the first one to be highly critical of Donald Trump. I generally think that he is a moron about 95% of things in life. In fact, I don’t think, I know he is, but there is 5% of things that he is actually brilliant about, and it just so happens that that 5% are critically important as it relates to his ability to initially be elected and now to potentially be reelected.
He is excellent at marketing and branding. He is exceptional at messaging. He knows how to rally his base. He knows how to hit various points as it relates to the necessity for him to do so, playing into his political strategy. I mean the guy is really, really good at a number of things that are important in this game, the game of politics, and too many Democrats and too many people continue to underestimate him and that is a critical mistake.
Now, the reason I bring that up is, is because when I started this case, I think the day before I filed the complaint, I had 551 Twitter followers, not 1,000, it was about 550, I think it was 551, right, I now I have, whatever it is, 850,000. And my initial use of Twitter stemmed from the following.
Once we filed the case and I started getting all of these press inquiries, in years past when I had a high profile case, and there were a number of them, but nothing of this magnitude, nothing even approximate even, I would send out emails, like an email press list, like an email press release or something like that to individuals that we would compile and we would keep a press list on.
Well, that became unmanageable because of the number of inquiries that we were receiving on a daily basis. And so I resorted to Twitter because it enabled me to disseminate information very quickly to a broad range of people in one fell swoop. I could just direct people to my Twitter and once people became aware of the fact that I largely communicated information by Twitter, they would not even make inquiry to the office or to me, they would just go to my Twitter, and that is how they would keep up with information.
And it works beautifully, and Trump is one of the first people that really figured this out on a mass scale. I mean there were a lot of people that used Twitter before Donald Trump, there is no question about that, but in this game, I mean he utilizes Twitter more effectively, now, whether you agree with what he tweets or not or whether it’s completely irresponsible, which 90% of the time it is.
Elie Mystal: Whether it keeps you up at night and gives you nightmares.
Michael Avenatti: You have got to give him props for being able to utilize it, because what he has done is he cuts out the middleman. It used to be back in the day you would issue a press statement or a press release and then you would hope that the members of the press would use certain quotes or certain portions of it, you would hold your breath and see what the story is. Trump figured out, well, I can just send out a tweet and if I don’t provide any other context about that subject, the press will print my tweet in the story or they will put it up on the TV screen, that’s a very powerful way to get your message out if you think about it.
Elie Mystal: Right, but part of also what you do, and I think you are right to talk about the effectiveness of getting the message out and getting your clients’ message out through this platform, the dark side of the platform is the trolls and the haters and how you deal with them.
Now, I, I don’t have — I am not at your level, but I get my own kind of trolls and usually I am kind of like, oh, that’s mean, that hurt my feelings, or I will make a little joke, right? You, you get a troll and you try to like bring down the fire of God on them. I mean like you come with a meteor.
And so I am asking kind of like how did you decide to go that way to really kind of light up the trolls and the haters that you get, because you could just mute them?
Michael Avenatti: Yeah, it’s interesting because I don’t respond to all of them. A lot of it has to do with my perception of what they say, whether it’s someone that has consistently attempted to come after me, my mood of the day, how busy I am, whether I want to in fact deal with it or not.
I will tell you that when it was rumored and I was giving serious credence to the possibility of running for the presidency, the trolls and the bot activity increased exponentially, and what a lot of people don’t know is, and I am going to pull this percentage out of thin air, but I think it’s probably pretty close, I will bet you that 20% of the Twitter users are not legitimate Twitter users, especially 20% of the people that are commenting on political issues or trolling, there is an entire misinformation, disinformation campaign going on at the hands of Russia and others as it relates to Twitter and Facebook. I know that may sound a little crazy, but it’s actually not and anyone that’s involved in this game will tell you that it is absolutely happening.
Once I declared in November that I was not going to run, the troll and bot activity on my Twitter account went down almost overnight by 75%. I have people that track that and we can actually tell which accounts in many instances are legit or illegitimate.
Elie Mystal: That’s interesting, but honestly, if Jack sues me now, you have got to help me out, because I don’t want that heat.
I can’t let you get out of here without asking about I think one of your more interesting comments, and this is a fight that Joe and I actually have quite a bit about whether or not it’s going to take a white male to beat Donald Trump. So Joe and I have this debate and it’s funny we are kind of on opposite sides of this, but to me the real debate is there are 80,000 people, there are 80,000 people that we have got to flip, that a Democrat is going to have to flip in the Upper Midwest, 80,000 people in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, what have you.
Joe Patrice: Pennsylvania, not Minnesota, but yeah.
Elie Mystal: Pennsylvania to flip, right? And so Joe generally, and I am painting broad strokes, is the kind of guy that says that well, what we have got to do is take those 80,000 people who voted for Trump and get them back to the Democrat side.
Joe Patrice: Right, though I do not think that is necessarily —
Elie Mystal: You don’t think it requires a white man to —
Joe Patrice: I do not.
Elie Mystal: I generally think that no, screw those people, once a Trump voter always a Trump voter, get off my lawn, what we have to do is inspire 90,000 people who didn’t vote at all last time to come out and vote and that’s where I kind of come from, you might not need a white man to do that.
You are kind of coming, at least as I understood your point, you are kind of coming from in order to flip those 80,000 people you need a white man to do it, is that a fair way of thinking about your point?
Michael Avenatti: No, and I made some comments in a different context in connection with a lengthy TIME interview that was done. There were numerous interviews across many months. They were doing a profile piece. Molly Ball was, who I have zero respect for, I have dealt with journalists all over the world at the highest levels of journalism, she is a disgrace to the profession based on what she did in connection with this hit piece.
She took my statements out of context. She married statements across multiple interviews on different topics, put them together to make it look like I believed that only a white male could win and that she took in another statement entirely out of context and married it with that and I was disgusted by it. And I have demanded repeatedly that they release the full transcript of the interview, I want people to see that, and they have refused, which should tell you everything you need to know about whether that piece is to be believed.
But let’s get to the heart of the issue, which is what you raised.
Elie Mystal: Clarify away.
Michael Avenatti: I think we have got to do both. I think if the Democrats want to recapture the White House, we cannot write off the Trump voters. We cannot write off the 3% or 4% or 5% of folks that are still in play, because if we write them off now, if we shame them, if we make them wrong, we risk losing them forever. I firmly believe that and so we cannot write them off.
We need to convince them that they were victims of a grand con by a very good conman, Donald Trump, who promised them the world and has delivered not much, if anything. So I think we have to target those folks, in those key swing states. At the same time, I think we also have to increase turnout among young voters in particular, and I think that that will pay dividends down the road. I think that we have to do both.
Now, do I think that that has to be a white male? No, I do not. But what I do think is this, if we think that we are going to beat Donald Trump by talking about puppies and daisies and this idea of hope and unity, it’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen. The only way you are going to beat this guy, if he is the nominee, and that’s still a big if, but if he is the nominee is by nominating somebody that can get down in the gutter with him and trade shots with him and really battle for the future of the Republic, who can then pivot and govern in a unifying manner.
You don’t have to govern the way you campaign. In fact, most people don’t govern the way they campaign. Problem with Donald Trump is he governs in much the same way, if not worse, than he campaigned.
Here is the other thing that I am frustrated by. There was only and there will ever only be one Barack Obama, just like there was only one John F. Kennedy, only one Michael Jordan, the list goes on and on.
When I hear people make comparisons between this candidate or that candidate is the next Barack Obama, I cringe, because there is never going to be another Barack Obama. Because he had such a unique place in our history and was such a unique individual. Whoever is going to be the nominee is going to have to stand on their own and be their own person.
And when I look at the field right now, frankly, I am not impressed relating to the ability of these people to actually beat Donald Trump. And that is the first task. All the experience in the world, all of the government experience in the world, all of these policy ideas, all of this is wonderful, but if you can’t beat Donald Trump, you don’t have any business being the nominee. I mean you can ask Hillary Clinton about that.
So the number one litmus test is, can this person stand on a debate stage and go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump and engage in the battle for the future of the Republic necessary in order to beat them, and if they don’t have the stomach for that, if they don’t have the skill set for that, then they don’t belong in the race. It’s all about the matchup and that’s what too many Democrats I think fail to understand.
Elie Mystal: I mean that I am going to — that I can agree with, right, like the — it’s almost like the style of the boxer makes the fight, the matchup is actually what’s key.
What do you feel, and you kind of answered this already, but there is those, when they go low, we should go high people, right, like there is that sense that like you can’t beat Trump by getting down into the mud with Trump, you have to stay above the fray.
Michael Avenatti: Yeah, I disagree entirely. I mean this has been, and I have said this for a long time, and I have traveled around the country and I have spoken in many, many states and I have said the same thing, when they go low, we hit harder, and that has to be the mindset.
You are not going to be — if you think about this, Donald Trump in a lot of ways is like a schoolyard bully, okay, you don’t defeat a schoolyard bully by walking up and reciting poetry and extending a hand and things like that, it just doesn’t happen; now maybe occasionally it happens, but generally it doesn’t happen that way. You defeat a schoolyard bully by punching him in the mouth and embarrassing him, and then guess what, he is not the schoolyard bully anymore.
And that’s exactly what has to happen in a figurative sense in connection with this race. I do believe that you can beat Trump at his own game, because I think when you really get down to it, this guy is a paper tiger. This guy is a guy that was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a gold toilet under his ass and he is not a fighter when you really get down to it. I think this guy is weak and I think he folds. But if you don’t confront him, if you don’t take him on head-to-head, if you are not prepared to take a lot of punishment and give as much, if not more, you are not going to defeat him.
One of the problems the Democratic Party has is in a lot of ways this guy is the Achilles heel for the following reason. The Democratic Party is not necessarily designed to nominate someone with the attributes necessary to beat this guy. In a lot of ways they are designed to nominate someone with the attributes that he matches up so perfectly against, someone that doesn’t want to go low, but wants to go high. And that’s one of the reasons why I think he is so difficult to beat.
Elie Mystal: It’s the eye of the tiger. It’s the thrill of the fight.
Joe Patrice: Yeah.
Elie Mystal: No, I mean look, I am generally with you. I am generally with the fact that the Democrats have to be willing to punch and have to be willing to go very hard against this guy, but your point about the party nominating process is super interesting to me, because you just earlier said, in the same token, we have to be willing to go back and find a way to get those Obama to Trump voters, right? And it just seems to me like the kind of person that is going to be able to get down in the mud and fight with him is not the kind of person who is going to go get those voters.
Michael Avenatti: Let me push back a little bit and explain to you why I disagree. When you travel to a lot of these swing states, and I have been to Ohio eight times in the last four months, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, I have spent a lot of time in these states; I grew up in St. Louis, a lot of people don’t know that. When you go out and you talk to a lot of these voters in these states, you learn two very important things.
Number one, they like Trump because they think he is a fighter, whether they necessarily agree with his policies 100% or not, they feel like he will fight for them. Now, I think that’s bunch of bullshit to a certain degree. I don’t think he is fighting for working people. I don’t think he ever has. I think he has been taking advantage of working people his entire life, but they believe that he is a fighter, whether they agree with his policies or not. So they want a fighter.
The second thing that resonates with them is they think he is a genuine guy, and what I mean by that is the guy that holds the rally in front of 20,000 people. If you took him off the stage and you sat him down at a table with you and people that you know, that would be the same guy. So when I say genuine, what you see is what you get.
These are the two things that resonate with a lot of these voters in these swing states, especially the ones that are predominantly white and male, over the age of 40, that’s what resonates with them. They want someone that’s going to actually fight with them or fight for them because they think that the system is rigged against them, and has been for some time. They want someone that’s going to call bullshit, if you will, over things that have gone on of people trying to take advantage of them. They want someone that’s genuine, and those are the things that really resonate with him.
And they are concerned about three or four core issues. They are concerned about whether they are going to have a good paying, stable job, whether they are going to be able to take care of their healthcare expenses or those of their loved ones, whether their kid may have a shot at going to college, and in many cases it may be the first kid in their family or child in their family to have that opportunity.
And then the fourth thing that they care about, and we can put our head in the sand and we can deny it and we can talk about how ridiculous it is, they care about this issue on our southern border, because they have now been conditioned to believe that these individuals are flooding over the border and taking our jobs and potentially committing violent acts against their family, which of course is not true, but they are concerned about border security.
So when you have Democrats talking about eliminating ICE, I mean that’s just a — that’s an absolute dead-bang loser. Any Democrat that has come out and said that we should eliminate ICE is not going to be Donald Trump, and I have got to tell you, there is a number of them that have come out in the past and said that.
I mean, you go to some of these swing states and you talk to voters and you talk about that issue and you tell them that you are going to eliminate ICE, that’s like telling them that you are going to get rid of their local police force. I mean that just doesn’t work.
But those are the four core issues that people really care about. This election is not going to be decided in California or New York or Washington DC or what they call the Acela Corridor; it’s going to be decided in these key states and the Democrats better wake up and figure out that these are the issues that really matter to people.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, you either have to take the — of those issues, which I agree with, you either have to go at them and say this is — as you say, like Trump’s bullshit on them, we actually care about them, or if you are going to say things like eliminate ICE, you can’t just say that, you have to begin the long process of reconditioning people into the idea that no, ICE isn’t really the people protecting the border, that’s CBP, like ICE is separate, but that’s a long process, that you have to begin to start breaking down whatever misconceptions people might have about it.
It’s not something that you can win by just saying it right now to those people, because they have been conditioned to believe things and if you aren’t ready to take them on headfirst and say no, we are the ones who are right about it, then you have to change their conditioning on it.
Elie Mystal: But that’s why we need Democrats who can read and speak clearly. Like your arguments that you are making, you are making arguments for —
Joe Patrice: For a good candidate, yeah.
Elie Mystal: For having a good candidate, right, you are not making an argument for like ICE being — like ICE is bad, we should eliminate it. The argument that you are making is that we need to have a Democrat who can explain why it’s bad better than just in a sound bite.
Joe Patrice: I mean that was certainly — I mean, yes, yes, people who can explain things are good, people who can identify with people who are good. I think the point about genuineness and fighting is very true and you need somebody who has those skills as well as somebody who can fight through what’s frankly been multiple years of unchecked propaganda that a lot of people have sucked up. And you can’t just roll in and say hey, that was all propaganda, trust us, you need to deprogram a little bit. It’s not like you get pulled out of the cult immediately. You have got to go through a process. Wow, I sounded Canadian there with my process.
Michael Avenatti: No, I think you are absolutely right and I am going to get in trouble for saying this, but whatever, I am going to say it anyway. Look, let me just say this, it’s all about the matchup. I firmly believe that, okay?
Let’s talk about Beto O’Rourke for a minute. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he did a remarkable job in connection with the Senate campaign. I think there is a high degree of likelihood that some day he may be President of the United States. There is no way in hell he is going to beat Donald Trump. It’s not going to happen.
No guy that apologizes to Ted Cruz for calling him a liar is going to beat Donald Trump. Ted Cruz’s own mother doesn’t apologize to Ted Cruz, okay? I mean Ted Cruz’s own party calls him Lucifer. If anybody thinks that puppies and daisies Beto O’Rourke is going to go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump on a debate stage and engage in a battle for the future of the Republic, and come out ahead, they are kidding themselves. It’s not going to happen. Now, you put him up, Beto O’Rourke, against other candidates, that’s a different ballgame.
The other thing I am going to say is this. Beto O’Rourke is not battletested enough and is not tough enough for this race. He got his five or six months honeymoon pass because he ran against Ted Cruz, who is hated by all Democrats and probably well over half of the Republicans, that’s not what this presidential race is going to look like.
And in fact, if you have watched this play out over the last couple of months, he has all of a sudden had to take some hits and he hasn’t really understood or hasn’t dealt with that too well, because he is not battletested.
So I don’t want this to sound like I am bashing on the guy, because I am actually a fan, I like him, I like his message. I think he is very effective. But no guy on a skateboard in a Whataburger parking lot is going to beat Donald Trump. It’s just not going to happen. So that’s not the —
Elie Mystal: I don’t want to bash on the guy; he just needs some hair on his chest.
Michael Avenatti: Well, I mean look, I am going to get in trouble probably for saying this, but that’s my opinion, that’s my belief. I just don’t think that a guy that apologizes to Ted Cruz for calling him a liar is going to be tough enough to do battle with Donald Trump. I mean, if you can’t beat up on Ted Cruz and stand behind it, how the hell are you ever going to beat up on Donald Trump?
Staci Zaretsky: Michael, let me just say, I have never heard you give an interview like this before and it is awesome.
So going off of that, we have spoken about your practice, we have spoken about Stormy Daniels, we have spoken about politics, what is next for you? What are you going to do?
Michael Avenatti: Well, I am going to continue to represent Stormy in this case and represent other clients. I think we are going to be making news here shortly in connection with the R. Kelly case, because I have been working behind the scenes in connection with that situation since April of last year actually on behalf of a couple of clients. We have been pretty quiet about it, but I think that —
Staci Zaretsky: Did you just give us a scoop?
Michael Avenatti: Well, you know, I think there is likely to be some big developments in connection with that case.
And let me also say this, anytime that my name surfaces now in connection where some of these matters, people immediately, not everyone, but a number of people say Avenatti is chasing the spotlight or he is out soliciting clients. I mean it’s ludicrous. I mean I don’t know how I would go about soliciting some of these clients, number one.
And number two, the fact of the matter is, is that one of the upsides from my representation of Stormy Daniels is that, again, we get a lot of calls and a lot of inquiries by a lot of people that for whatever reason they want me to represent them and it presents opportunities for us to get involved in various cases and we get involved in matters that we believe deserve our attention.
Elie Mystal: Wow. Are you at all interested in a — it’s going to sound weird, but it’s Thinking Like a Lawyer and it’s a kind of a Lawyer 101 question, are you at all interested in like a judicial appointment or anything like that, like if you — I guess it won’t be from President Beto, but if somebody were to ping you for that, would that be a career move you would be at all interested in?
Michael Avenatti: I have an enormous amount of respect for individuals that take the bench and venture down that road. Look, frankly, the likelihood of me being confirmed to a lifetime judicial appointment is probably zero, truth be told, and I mean that would be if I really wanted the position. I think I am probably too opinionated and at this point controversial for many people. I am not expecting the phone to ring relating to any judicial appointment opportunity.
Joe Patrice: Well, great. Well, this was amazing. Thank you so much Michael for joining us today.
Michael Avenatti: No, it was great. I appreciate you having me on. It’s nice to have such a free will environment where I can speak my mind and now I will just wait for the fallout.
Elie Mystal: Seriously man, if Jack comes after me, I am going to need — like don’t leave me out here.
Michael Avenatti: All right, you got it. I am in.
Joe Patrice: Great. And thank you to all the listeners who joined us today and also thank you of course to Smith.ai for sponsoring the show. If you all aren’t subscribed to the show, you should be. That’s the best way to get every episode when they come out. You should do all the reviews, the stars and write reviews, it moves us up that algorithm so more people can hear us.
Listen to the other shows that Above the Law has, The Jabot as well as Book of Business. You should listen to the full range of offerings from the Legal Talk Network.
And with all of those things said, I think — read Above the Law and follow us on Twitter. I am @JosephPatrice, he is @ElieNYC. We have far fewer followers.
And Staci, you are at?
Staci Zaretsky: @stacizaretsky.
Joe Patrice: Just @stacizaretsky. All right, perfect.
And with that, we will talk to you all next week.
Elie Mystal: Peace.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Above the Law's Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice examine everyday topics through the prism of a legal framework.
A conversation with Neal Katyal about the late justice.
Firms are signaling their strength in a COVID impacted economy.
Despite Trump's urgings, you'd be risking possible felonies.
Why doesn't the Attorney General know how many times we can vote?
Taking stock of the law after a week of consistent violations.
Online exams have a bathroom break problem.