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Who would have thought Michael Avenatti was a greedy porn lawyer?

His case should be an admonitory tale

April 12, 2019

12:44 PM

12 April 2019

12:44 PM

In August 2018, The Atlantic said that he was an ‘inevitable’ presidential candidate. Last April, Bill Maher declared him a ‘folk hero’: ‘we’re in love with you,’ he said. But yesterday, the final nail was jackhammered into the political coffin of Michael Avenatti, known the world over, thanks to Tucker Carlson, as the ‘creepy porn lawyer.’

Avenatti was arrested and charged with embezzlement and extortion in March. That was just a warm-up act, however. Yesterday, the man who made trips to New Hampshire to test his political potency for 2020, who spoke before number high-powered Democratic groups, the man who between March 7 and mid-May 2018 was on MSNBC and CNN 108 times spouting anti-Trump hysteria, the man who suborned pathetic women to makeup preposterous libels about Brett Kavanaugh — well, that chap yesterday was slapped with a 36-count indictment for bribery, tax fraud, and embezzlement that could earn him an all-expense-paid suite at a government facility for three-hundred and something years.

There are lots of delicious tidbits in the indictment. I think my favorite was the charge that Avenatti diddled Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, a mentally handicapped paraplegic, out of a $4 million settlement. ‘Johnson’s settlement payout,’ the Los Angeles Times reported, ‘was wired to Avenatti in January 2015. Avenatti did not inform Johnson of the settlement. Instead, he deposited the money in several bank accounts, including one for his race-car team, GB Autosport, LLC, and Global Baristas US, a coffee company that Avenatti owned.’ The race-car team was a nice touch.

Avenatti catapulted to, er, fame as the mouthpiece for Stormy Daniels, née Stephanie Clifford, the porn-‘star’ who sued Donald Trump over a $130,000 hush-money-payment made to her shortly before the 2016 election. Avenatti, without Daniels’s permission, sued the president for defamation. A federal judge threw out the suit and ordered Daniels to pay the president’s legal expenses, estimated to be $350,000. Avenatti and Daniels parted ways last month.

A word about that ‘er, fame’ in the previous paragraph. ‘Fame’ is not really the right word. ‘Notoriety’ is perhaps better, at least if we understand fame as Milton meant it in Lycidas. ‘Alas!’ the poet asks,

‘what boots it with incessant care

To tend the homely, slighted shepherd’s trade,

And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?

Were it not better done, as others use,

To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,

Or with the tangles of Neæra’s hair?

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise

(That last infirmity of noble mind)

To scorn delights and live laborious days;…’

The desire for fame may be an ‘infirmity,’ but one that plagues a ‘noble mind.’ A few lines later, comes the admonition: ‘Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil,…But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes/ And perfect witness of all-judging Jove.’

With Milton, we’re pretty far from Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti. But I mention that famous passage from Lycidas to provide a little perspective on the gutter phenomenon that was the Michael Avenatti show. His flash-in-the-pan notoriety dramatizes the shabby state of what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call our ‘public discourse.’ What does it mean that this low-life was for months a fixture on networks that, lunatic though they are in substance, still enjoy the confidence of television viewers? Why was he given air time to berate the president, to exploit the hapless Stormy Daniels? Why did anyone pay him any regard when he dragged those female fantasists in front of the television cameras to retail lurid stories about Brett Kavanaugh?

The case of Michael Avenatti should be an admonitory tale. Watching Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, and their enablers in the media tergiversate hysterically over Attorney General William Barr’s common-sense observation about the Obama administration’s spying on the Trump campaign, I suspect that no lesson has been learned. They fell for Avenatti because he said what they wanted to hear. They abominate William Barr because he refuses to drink the Kool-Aid.


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