Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who claims she had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006, slammed her lawyer and potential 2020 presidential nominee Michael Avenatti Wednesday, alleging he sued the president against her wishes.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, decided to publicly criticize Avenatti after it was reported on Tuesday that he started a second fundraising webpage to raise money for her legal defense fund. She said she did not know about the second crowdfunding campaign until she read about it on Twitter.
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"For months I’ve asked Michael Avenatti to give me accounting information about the fund my supporters so generously donated to for my safety and legal defense. He has repeatedly ignored those requests. Days ago I demanded again, repeatedly, that he tell me how the money was being spent and how much was left," Daniels said in a statement to the Daily Beast. "Instead of answering me, without my permission or even my knowledge Michael launched another crowdfunding campaign to raise money on my behalf. I learned about it on Twitter."
Daniels went on to say that she has not decided whether she will keep Avenatti on as her legal representative. She said he has been a "great advocate" for her in many ways and aggressively fought for her, but she added that he has not treated her with the "respect and deference an attorney should show to a client."
"He has spoken on my behalf without my approval. He filed a defamation case against Donald Trump against my wishes. He repeatedly refused to tell me how my legal defense fund was being spent. Now he has launched a new crowdfunding campaign using my face and name without my permission and attributing words to me that I never wrote or said," Daniels wrote. "I’m deeply grateful to my supporters and they deserve to know their money is being spent responsibly. I don’t want to hurt Michael, but it’s time to set the record straight. The truth has always been my greatest ally."
Avenatti responded to Daniels' statement by providing his own to the Daily Beast, where he pushed back against her characterization of their agreement.
"I have always been an open book with Stormy as to all aspects of her cases and she knows that. The retention agreement Stormy signed back in February provided that she would pay me $100.00 and that any and all other monies raised via a legal fund would go toward my legal fees and costs," Avenatti said. "Instead, the vast majority of the money raised has gone toward her security expenses and similar other expenses."
"The most recent campaign was simply a refresh of the prior campaign, designed to help defray some of Stormy’s expenses," he added.
The Daily Beast reached out to Stephen Gillers, a New York University Law School professor and legal ethics expert, about the case, prompting him to say Avenatti could face serious legal problems if the lawsuit was against Daniels’ wishes.
"If he filed the case with her name when it was clear that she told him not to, then he could be sued for that," Gillers said. "He could be sued for malpractice. If true, she has a malpractice case against him. I emphasize if true. And if true, he would be subject to discipline but not as serious as disbarment."
As of Wednesday evening, Daniels' effort on Crowdjustice.com raised $4,785, which is far from the $100,000 collected in one day last March when she sued Trump to invalidate the "hush agreement" that she signed weeks before the 2016 election.
When The Daily Beast contacted Avenatti on Tuesday and asked about Daniels’ two active Crowdjustice sites, the lawyer said, "We reset the page as the focus of the case changed from when we first launched the site." The Daily Beast also asked on Tuesday for a breakdown of expenses. In response, Avenatti said via email, "The money has gone toward the areas identified on the page. For instance, Stormy's security detail has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially due to the high level of death threats. The other out-of-pocket costs of the litigation are also extraordinary (and I'm not speaking of attorneys' fees). Trump and Cohen have spent millions in their defense]."
Avenatti claimed at the time that he hasn’t "received a dime in attorneys’ fees" from the crowdfunding effort. He said his firm has "spent well over a thousand hours of attorney time on the case at a value of over $1,500,000 (and no, we do not count interviews or media as attorney time)."
Avenatti’s legal work for Daniels hasn’t always succeeded. In the April defamation lawsuit against the president, Avenatti argued Trump hurt her by tweeting that she participated in a "total con job." But in November, a judge dismissed the suit and ordered Daniels to pay the president’s legal bills. Trump’s lawyers asked for almost $350,000 in legal fees; Daniels is now fighting to try to lower that bill.