Saturday, July 21, 2018

Seventh in a Series: Adult Coloring Book, "The Lawyers of Trump-Russia" (feat. Michael Avenatti)

by Diane Klein

On Friday, July 20, 2018, we learned what few of us could have been surprised to hear: that former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen taped conversations he had with Donald Trump, including pre-election conversations about payments made to Karen MacDougal, the former Playboy Bunny with whom Trump had a 10-month affair in 2006.  This seems likely to set off yet another "publicity tour" by attorney-commentator Michael Avenatti, whose representation of adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford (aka "Stormy Daniels"), has been a thorn in Trump's side since spring 2018 - and who predicted the existence and release of these tapes on May 30, 2018.  In the aftermath of the raid on Cohen's office, as far back as April, 2018, there was speculation about such recordings, but the Washington Post and others expressed skepticism about whether any such recordings would include Trump.

Why might Cohen have made such tapes?  Though more nefarious suggestions abound, one answer is relatively benign: Donald Trump notoriously does not use email, and Cohen might simply have wished to have a record of what was said.  Such recordings are not illegal: New York is a one-party consent state for recording telephone calls (with some restrictions only applicable to telemarketers).

Avenatti's own reputation is hardly spotless: he ended up in a messy dispute with a former law partner; he also filed for divorce in December 2017.  Fox News has tried to undermine him by reporting about these matters, but to little apparent effect.

Avenatti seems to be having the last laugh (or perhaps, merely the current laugh), as Trump's knowledge and participation in such a payment, made so close to the election (August 2016), seems pretty clearly intended to influence the election, raising the specter of (at least) campaign finance violations.  It also looks like part of a larger plan: the NDA signed by Avenatti's client was executed even closer to the election, on October 28, 2016, after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape on October 7, 2016.  It only remains to be seen which of Avenatti's other prognistications turn out to be true.

(Art by Andrea McHale, a special-education teacher in New York City; lettering by Alex Mannos, a graphic artist in Sacramento, California.  The coloring page is subject to a Creative Commons license as below.)