Michael Avenatti’s "publicity tour" and harsh comments about Michael Cohen risk tainting a jury if a criminal case is brought against President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, a judge said.
Avenatti has been concerned that material seized in an FBI raid on Cohen’s office and home may include privileged documents and secretly recorded audio about his client, the adult-film star Stormy Daniels. A special master assigned to go through the seized material hasn’t identified whether any documents pertain to Daniels.
Shortly after a hearing before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood Wednesday, Avenatti withdrew his request to participate in the case, but said he may refile it later.
Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan slammed Avenatti’s television appearances and tweets about about Cohen and Trump, saying the California lawyer, who needs court permission to participate in a New York-based lawsuit, was "seeking the aggrandizement of a single attorney and his client."
"I can’t stop you, unless you’re participating in a matter before me," Wood said to Avenatti in the packed courtroom in Manhattan Wednesday. "Until you are admitted here, I don’t expect you to stand and be heard" at future hearings.
Wood gave Cohen’s team until June 15 to review the seized documents and electronic files or she’ll allow Justice Department lawyers to finish the job.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump and Cohen to get out of the "hush agreement" Cohen arranged just before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about her alleged tryst with Trump more than a decade ago. Her suit in Los Angeles federal court was put on hold after the FBI raid.
Ryan’s complaints weren’t limited to Avenatti’s TV appearances. He noted Avenatti’s release of Cohen’s leaked banking information, which showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from companies with business before the U.S. government and an investment firm tied to a Russian oligarch. Ryan also told Wood about Avenatti’s allegedly improper behavior in an unrelated legal dispute involving the bankruptcy of his old law firm, saying such issues should disqualify Avenatti from being heard in the Cohen matter.
Avenatti told Wood he’d done nothing wrong. He also pointed out the extensive publicity and harsh commentary made by Trump, as well as the president’s own encounters in bankruptcy court.
"There’s no evidence that we did anything improper," Avenatti said.
Cohen and his attorney’s "are hell bent on continuing to hide the truth from the American people," Avenatti told reporters after court.
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