CNN's Anderson Cooper introduced Michael Avenatti to the literary agent who is now a key witness in Avenatti's fraud trial, in which the onetime Democratic frontrunner stands accused of stealing money from porn star Stormy Daniels.
Luke Janklow, the agent who arranged a lucrative book deal for Daniels in 2018, testified on Monday that Cooper introduced him to Avenatti, who was serving as the porn star's lawyer at the time. "He said he was a dynamic, energetic guy," Janklow said of Cooper, his friend since childhood.
Janklow, heir to the Warner Bros. fortune, and Cooper, a Vanderbilt scion, were just a couple of rich kids growing up in New York City who would occasionally get "reprimanded" by police for setting off fireworks in Central Park. The pair attended the prestigious Dalton School on the Upper East Side.
Cooper was among the CNN personalities who gave Avenatti almost unlimited airtime in 2018 to say mean things about President Donald Trump. They even hung out together outside of work. For example, the porn star lawyer was spotted cavorting with a number of CNN celebs at a Hamptons soiree hosted by anchor Don Lemon. Brian Stelter, the network's chief misinformation watchdog, once argued Avenatti was "a serious contender" to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
After Cooper facilitated the introduction in March 2018, Janklow worked with Avenatti to secure an $800,000 advance for Daniels's book, Full Disclosure, in which she detailed her alleged affair with Trump. Janklow, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, was responsible for disbursing the advance, which was divided into four installments.
Prosecutors allege that beginning with the second installment payment, Avenatti directed Janklow to send the money to an account he controlled. When Janklow requested authorization from Daniels, the attorney provided a fraudulent letter "signed" by Daniels, who was unaware of the arrangement. Avenatti then used the money to cover payroll expenses at his law firm, and on personal travel expenses, as well as the $3,900 monthly lease payment on his Ferrari.
After Daniels asked where her money was, Avenatti used personal funds to pay the porn star the second installment she was owed and subsequently persuaded Janklow to wire the third installment into his account several weeks before it was due. He proceeded to spend almost all of it, while repeatedly lying to Daniels about why she hadn't been paid. For example, he told her the publisher (St. Martin's Press) was "resisting making the third payment due to poor sales," insisted he was "working them and threatening litigation," and urged her not to contact Janklow or the publisher directly.
Avenatti had stolen nearly $300,000 by the time Daniels and Janklow grew wise to the fraud scheme in February 2019. Over the next several months, Avenatti was charged with multiple counts of defrauding Daniels and other clients, as well as attempting to extort Nike to the tune of $25 million. He was convicted of the latter charge in July 2021 and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
While most well-adjusted human beings instantly and accurately assessed Avenatti to be a deranged charlatan, members of the mainstream media saw him as a "dynamic, energetic guy" with a message the American people urgently needed to hear. Years later, they remain flummoxed as to why public trust in the media continues to plummet.