LOS ANGELES (CN) – The attorney for President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen upped the ante Monday on demands that porn star Stormy Daniels’ attorney should be barred from speaking to news media so Cohen gets a fair trial in pending cases.
Manhattan Beach, California-based Brent Blakely of Blakely Law Group said in a reply brief filed in Los Angeles federal court that Michael Avenatti’s statements on news programs threaten the “fairness, and indeed the integrity, of the judicial process.”
Cohen – a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization – says Avenatti, whose client Daniels claims she had an affair with Trump, is depriving him of the right to a fair trial by participating in television news interviews.
Avenatti is driven by a “seemingly unquenchable thirst for publicity” where “he routinely denigrates” Cohen with claims of criminal conduct, Cohen has said in court papers.
“Avenatti has and continues to engage in a willful, open, and consistent strategy to litigate in the court of public opinion,” Blakely said in the court filing Monday. “Appearing on television over 170 times and issuing over 500 tweets, during which [Avenatti] routinely accuses Cohen of various criminal acts, being a moron, etc., and comments on anticipated evidence.”
In order to “ensure that justice is administered properly,” Blakely wrote, Avenatti should be banned from speaking to the press about the case and releasing information to the public.
On Twitter moments after Cohen’s brief was filed, Avenatti criticized Cohen for claiming to be “concerned” about news media while agreeing to be interviewed Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“BTW, if Michael Cohen and his attorney Brent Blakely are so concerned about media attention that they are seeking to keep me from speaking the truth to the press via a gag order, then why did Cohen give an interview to @GMA?!?! They like press, just not the truth. #Basta,” Avenatti tweeted.
In an off-camera interview with ABC, Cohen said he is willing to work with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, even if that leaves Trump exposed to legal danger.
“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first,” Cohen told ABC.
Cohen is currently under criminal investigation in federal court in New York, after his office and hotel room were raided by federal agents seeking documents related to the payment to Daniels.
Avenatti said Cohen is “trying to play both sides” with his ABC interview by appeasing Trump and trying to portray himself as a good person.
“Mr. Cohen is trying to get Trump to pay his legal bills & is playing games. If he has info & truly loves this country then he needs to come forward NOW,” Avenatti tweeted. “There is nothing stopping him. If not, it will be obvious he lied to the public in an effort to paint himself as a good guy.”
Blakely did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Monday’s filing is a reply to Daniels’ June 25 opposition of Cohen’s ex parte request for a restraining order against Avenatti. In it, Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, said any gag order issued in the case over hush money paid to Daniels must apply to all parties.
In a single-page court order last month, U.S District Judge S. James Otero struck down Cohen’s request and set a standard briefing schedule for the issue. The judge said Blakely and Cohen have “not demonstrated in the application that immediate, irreparable injury would occur in the absence of emergency ex parte relief.”
In a phone interview Monday, Avenatti said he and Daniels are “confident [Cohen’s] motion will be denied.”
Otero’s order didn’t keep Blakely from blasting Avenatti on Monday, claiming he has “repeatedly crossed the line, routinely accusing Cohen of criminal acts.”
Avenatti took “it upon himself to obtain, apparently illegally, Cohen’s bank records and then disclosed them to the world to see,” said Blakely, who added the release of bank records is an example of the risk Avenatti poses to the case.
“Like a small-town carnival magician who attempts to confuse the audience with smoke and mirrors, Avenatti attempts to somehow justify his conduct by pulling the First Amendment out of his tiny bag of tricks while at the same time pointing his finger at others.” Blakely said. “However, Cohen’s application is not being decided by Avenatti’s Twitter followers, but rather by this court.”
Daniels says Cohen paid her $130,000 to keep quiet during the 2016 presidential election about a one-night stand she claims to have had with Trump in 2006.
Her California lawsuit against Trump, Cohen and Essential Consultants – a company Cohen set up to facilitate the payment – argues the nondisclosure agreement she signed is invalid since Trump never signed it. She has offered to repay the money to Cohen.
Daniels sued to get out of the agreement and added defamation claims over statements Trump and Cohen have made about her and the agreement in the press and on Twitter.
Trump and the White House continue to deny the affair with Daniels took place.
Last month, the Office of Government Ethics released Trump’s financial disclosure form, which describes a 2016 expense incurred by Cohen in the amount of $100,001 to $250,000.
“Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017,” the report states.
Also on Monday, in a related lawsuit filed by Daniels against Cohen and her former attorney Keith Davidson, Otero gave Cohen until July 9 to respond after he and Blakely missed the deadline last week.
Daniels claims Davidson, who represented her in 2016, colluded with Cohen without her knowledge or consent in an attempt to discredit her story of the alleged affair with Trump. Her claims against the pair include breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty.
Avenatti told Courthouse News that “instead of engaging in ad hominem personal attacks, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Blakely should be more focused on meeting basic court deadlines.”
Cohen responded shortly Monday afternoon, asking Otero to deny Daniels’ request to move the case back to state court given a stay order in the case and Daniels and Avenatti’s “utter contempt” of it.
The stay order – which Cohen said Monday “could not have been any clearer” – is meant to protect his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination since there is a potential factual overlap between the New York criminal proceedings and Daniels’ case against Trump, Cohen and Essential Consultants.
Since the stay order was issued, Avenatti and Daniels have continued their “unprincipled publicity tour” and filed two new lawsuits meant to “circumvent and otherwise undermine” the stay order, Cohen said. Furthermore, Cohen called Daniels’ lawsuit against him and Davidson “another attempt at judge and forum shopping” and should have been part of her lawsuit against Trump, Cohen and Essential Consultants.
Accordingly, Cohen asked Otero to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Cohen and Blakely filed another response late Monday, mostly invoking Cohen’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He also called Daniels’ complaint “vague and unintelligible.”
For his part, Davidson has also filed a countersuit accusing Cohen of invading his privacy by recording several phone calls between the two men, in an alleged violation of California law.
Davidson also says Avenatti, whom he added as a defendant to counterclaims, made “countless reckless and false statements” about him.
Avenatti responded Monday, denying most of Davidson’s allegations and demanding a jury trial as to a link to a Daily Beast article he posted on Twitter that said Davidson was suspected of extortion but not charged. He asked Otero to dismiss Davidson’s counterclaims and for attorney’s fees for representing Daniels in this case.
As for Cohen’s request for dismissal, Avenatti called it “complete nonsense” in an email sent Monday afternoon.