Steve Bannon says Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti could be threat to Trump being reelected

'Avenatti could be the Trump of 2020, the guy who's the outsider, who blows through the regular politician because he looks different' 

Alex Horton
Sunday 30 September 2018 12:32 BST
Michael Avenatti responds to Donald Trump's 'con artist' comment by lambasting his lawyer Michael Cohen

Michael Avenatti, riding in a white Ford Focus hybrid, is a continent away from his southern California office.

His driver is barrelling down a road in central New Hampshire, where Mr Avenatti is helping raise money for Democrats and trying to “take the temperature” of potential voters as he explores a presidential run.

Mr Avenatti is emphatic about one thing. He is not on “a listening tour,” he told The Washington Post by phone Saturday, because that's something politicians say.

He is definitely not a politician. And yet, Mr Avenatti thinks that may be how he may become one.

The veteran trial attorney, who has frequently spoken to the media as the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, says he has yet to decide if he will run to unseat president Donald Trump in 2020.

But whoever the Democrats name as their nominee, he said, needs to be a “fighter.” He is one, he said, and could be a serious threat to a second Trump term.

It may be the only thing he and Stephen Bannon agree on.

“[Avenatti]'s got a fearlessness,” Mr Bannon, the Republican strategist and former senior White House adviser, told Bill Maher Friday night on HBO. “And he's a fighter. I think he'll go through a lot of that field, if he decides to stick with it, like a scythe through grass.”

It is a new age, Mr Bannon explained, where politicians ascending from Congress or the governor's office may not be the clearest path to the White House.

Maher agreed. “[Avenatti] could be the Trump of 2020, the guy who's the outsider, who blows through the regular politician because he looks different,” he said.

Mr Avenatti, a fierce critic of President Trump, takes the comparison as a compliment. Mostly.

He speaks directly. He's not afraid to be confrontational. He has success in a field other than politics.

In a crowded field, he said he can distinguish himself by the form of someone who has never bent under the will of a straw poll or focus group. It sounds like a formula that helped propel Mr Trump to office.

“They recognise perhaps they have a problem on their hands, and I happen to agree with them,” Mr Avenatti said of Republicans. “If I decide to do this, I'm going to surprise a lot of people.”

In recent months, senator Kamala Harris, senator Elizabeth Warren, senator Cory Booker, former vice president Joe Biden and others have risen to the top of the discussion of Democratic front-runners.

Ms Harris, Mr Booker and senator Amy Klobuchar, have fresh prominence as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during a moment where the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is both a high-stakes political battle and tryout for potential voters to see them in action.

And yet, Mr Avenatti has hung around the political discussion as the country has shifted attention to Mr Kavanaugh - and the multiple allegations of sexual assault against him.

Mr Avenatti's client, Julie Swetnik, claimed during high school she was raped by a group of boys at a party at which Mr Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were present.

She hasn't accused Mr Kavanaugh of raping her. Mr Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported the FBI has reached out to Deborah Ramirez as part of an inquiry into allegations that also separately include an accusation from Christine Blasey Ford, who testified on Thursday.

Mr Avenatti says he hoped the FBI also would contact Ms Swetnik. “I don't know how this investigation could be called complete if they don't contact her,” he said.

As he rolled through New Hampshire on stops that included Manchester, Concord and Plymouth, Mr Avenatti said Democrats are looking for a fighting spirit. He was told that by a “high-ranking official” at the Democratic National Committee, he said.

But Mr Avenatti said he also goes through periods where a run either attracts him or repulses him. If President Trump announces he won't seek another term, his desire to run will be halved, he said.

And if vice president Mike Pence also declines to run? “My appetite goes to zero,” he said, “I won't seek office.”

Those two events together may be unlikely. Mr Avenatti's appetite may persist if no one can answer what he calls the money question: Can you beat Trump?

Mr Avenatti declined to say which Democratic contender he thinks can best address the question.

In his trademark immodesty, he suggested it just may be him. He has been “placed in this moment in history... I may be able to solve this dumpster fire of a presidency,” he said.

Washington Post

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