He has proved to be irresistible media catnip : flamboyant and fast-talking with a bottomless pocketful of scoops and quotes.
.. stories circulated of Avenatti threatening or harshly criticizing three media organizations: the Daily Caller, the Hollywood Reporter and Law & Crime, a legal website.
.. “If you and your colleagues do not stop with the hit pieces that are full of lies and defamatory statements, I will have no choice but to sue each of you and your publication for defamation,”
.. Here is the charismatic ratings-meister who thrives in the spotlight, but when the coverage turns negative, he goes on the attack against the very press that benefits him.
.. “Avenatti seems quite Trumpian in both loving media attention and acting quite contemptuously toward the free press.”
.. Identifying errors, and asking for corrections, is always legitimate, of course.
But should a fit of pique really include threats to sue journalists and their news organizations for defamation?
.. he sees Avenatti being treated as a hero because a lot of people agree with his anti-Trump agenda.
But he says he shouldn’t get that kind of a pass.
.. Liberals’ faulty thinking about Avenatti goes like this, he said: “It’s okay if he acts badly because he’s accomplishing things.”
.. White sees a clear parallel to the way avid Trump supporters defend the president’s unsavory behavior: “Take him seriously, not literally” — simply because it’s someone whose agenda you like.
.. “I generally support standing up to Trump and Cohen,” White said, “but when Avenatti makes frivolous legal threats, he’s acting just like them.” (Trump is well known for threats to sue journalists, very few of which have come to pass.)
Avenatti is effective, in part, because he plays the same game as Trump, with a gleeful willingness to attack and an instinct for manipulating journalistic appetites.
Stormy Daniels already has a defamation claim against President Trump based in part on his accusation that her story that she was threatened in a parking lot was false. (Trump says the claim of an affair was “false and extortionist.”) Now she has a splendid case.
Accusing someone of a crime is defamation per se, meaning no damages need to be proved. Avenatti will be entitled to depose Trump under oath to ask such nettlesome questions as:
- Did you have sexual relations with my client?
- Did you publicly deny knowledge of a settlement payment on national TV?
- Did you reimburse Michael Cohen for fronting the money?
- Did you break up the payments in monthly installments? Why?
- Have you made other payments to remain silent about adulterous affairs? How many? Did they all extort money from you, in your view? What are their names? How much did you pay out?
.. According to Daniels, Cohen strong-armed her into making a settlement. She, in other words, was the victim of a pressure campaign, not its instigator. Cohen would therefore need to answer questions that parallel inquiries for Trump. One or both might take the 5th — which many Americans would interpret as evidence one or both violated criminal campaign laws.
Avenatti has advantages over Robert S. Mueller III. Avenatti can needle Trump daily on TV, a tactic that already pushed Trump to lie publicly about his knowledge of the settlement. Avenatti can not be fired by Trump. Pursuant to the Paula Jones case, Daniels’s lawyer unquestionably has the right to depose Trump under oath.
There is delicious karma in this happening to Trump, who bludgeoned Hillary Clinton during the campaign for allegedly helping her husband to falsely smear women who accused the philandering president of sexual conduct. We reach karmic overload when we note that Trump has spent a lifetime threatening to and actually filing lawsuits alleging defamation.
Decision comes amid investigation of Donald Trump’s personal attorney for potential bank fraud and campaign-finance violations
President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has dropped a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed over the publication of an unsubstantiated intelligence dossier that alleged he played a role in working with Russia to help Mr. Trump become president.
Mr. Cohen is also dropping a similar defamation suit against Fusion GPS, the private investigation firm responsible for the dossier.
Since filing the suits in January, Mr. Cohen has come under criminal investigation for potential bank fraud and campaign-finance violations. His attorney said the probe made it difficult to continue with the defamation cases.
Why not take action against Michael Wolff and his publisher?
.. he quotes Steve Bannon, formerly the chief executive of the Trump campaign and chairman of Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, characterizing meetings between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian operatives as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.” Bannon also is quoted as saying that there is “zero” chance that Donald Trump himself was unaware of the meetings. There are many amusing anecdotes in the book that tend to confirm the worst suspicions of the administration’s critics.
.. Wolff has been criticized as an overly free practitioner of what used to be known as the New Journalism, liberally applying literary techniques to recreate (some of his critics would say to simply create) scenes and interactions to which he was not directly privy.
.. (Another lupine journalist, the unparalleled Tom Wolfe, is most closely associated with that style of writing.)
.. Trump is using threats of lawsuits mainly as instruments of harassment
.. Usually, those threats die out for one of two reasons: The first is that a libel action requires the publication of a claim of fact, rather than a judgment or an opinion. If you publish “Jones is a rapist,” that’s a statement of fact, a claim that Jones has committed a particular crime. If you publish “Jones is a man of low character and does not deserve your vote for city council,” then that is a statement of opinion.
.. The second thing that most often stops a libel suit in its tracks is that the claim has to be false.
.. It’s $500 or more every time you pick up the phone and talk to your lawyer.
.. Steve Bannon, living high on those Seinfeld royalties. (Bannon fortified his fortune with “a show about nothing.” Poetic.)
.. To have committed libel, Wolff and his publishers must have printed a claim of fact that is: 1. false; 2. defamatory, meaning that it did some kind of damage to Trump; 3. published with actual malice, meaning Wolff knew it was false or acted with reckless disregard as to whether it was.
.. Given that most of Trump’s net worth is tied up in his “brand,” which is another way of saying his public persona, establishing damages should not be very difficult, either
.. As for the actual malice, if Wolff has indeed manufactured quotations or events, that would go a long way toward establishing that he knew he was publishing falsehoods.
.. The problem, of course, is that a lawsuit would lead to discovery, meaning that the president and the people around him would be questioned under penalty of perjury. One thing Steve Bannon and President Trump have in common is that each lies habitually, even in circumstances in which the lie serves no obvious purpose.
.. One wonders what either man would actually say under questioning, to say nothing of what might be said by a Jared Kushner or a Kellyanne Conway.