Michael Avenatti's Past Won't Stop Him From Running in 2020

The woman approached Michael Avenatti with obvious purpose. A 79-year-old retired physicist with long blond hair, she wore a blue T-shirt that said AVENATTI IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL. It was mid-August, and Avenatti had just finished giving a rousing speech at a county Democratic picnic in New Hampshire. As he threw his arm around her and grinned for the umpteenth selfie of the day, she slipped a folded piece of paper into his hand.

Later, as he checked into his luxury hotel near Manchester, Avenatti took the paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. It was a check for $1,000, made out to “Avenatti for President.” In the memo line, the woman had written, in precise lowercase print: “Our hopes are in your hands.”

This is the effect Michael Avenatti has on many of the Democratic faithful: he thrills them to the core. His presence at the picnic had instantly tripled ticket sales. Pink-hatted students mingled with retirees in single payer now tees as the state party chairman, one of the country’s leading Democratic power brokers, introduced him as “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare, Michael Avenatti!” to rapturous cheers. And the idea that the 47-year-old lawyer could be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 began to appear not entirely unrealistic.

If it suddenly seems like Avenatti is everywhere, that’s because he is. Just a few months ago he was a successful but virtually unknown Los Angeles plaintiff’s lawyer with fewer than 600 Twitter followers–mostly “friends, relatives and opposing counsel,” he says. That was before he met Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actor whom Trump paid $130,000 days before the 2016 election to keep quiet about a one-night stand she alleges she had with him in 2006. With Avenatti’s help, Daniels’ lawsuit metastasized into a criminal probe of Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen that has produced the first sworn allegations in open court of criminal behavior by the President. Avenatti has exposed Cohen’s multimillion-dollar influence racket, taken up the cases of dozens of immigrant parents separated from their children at the Mexican border, and jumped into the controversy over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, producing lurid, uncorroborated allegations from a client, Julie Swetnick, who says Kavanaugh was present at parties in the early 1980s at which teenage girls were gang-raped.

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