Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti has staked his reputation on destroying Donald Trump. But now he’s destroyed himself from a legal position, publicly and on live TV.
In an exchange on “Anderson Cooper” Friday night, Avenatti allowed esteemed Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz to goad him into admitting he broke rule 4.2 of the American Bar Association.
The issue is pretty straightforward. A lawyer cannot speak to a person or party represented by other counsel without that counsel’s permission. The point of having legal counsel is to legally protect yourself. When a lawyer doesn’t respect this, he or she violates the American Bar Association’s ethical codes of conduct. It strains credulity to interpret Avenatti’s comments in the Anderson Cooper segment as anything but a direct violation of these standards.
Dershowitz challenged Avenatti via Twitter: “I didn’t say @MichaelAvenatti was wrong, but that if he’s right, how did he access that confidential info? He implied there were more Trump tapes. Guiliani says there’s only one with Trump’s voice. Let’s see who is right.”
I didn’t say @MichaelAvenatti was wrong, but that if he’s right, how did he access that confidential info? He implied there were more Trump tapes. Guiliani says there's only one with Trump's voice. Let’s see who is right.
— Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) July 26, 2018
Anderson Cooper brought this up in the segment, and Dershowitz explained that the issue wasn’t whether Avenatti was correct about his prediction of more tapes—the Washington Post has reported that there are 100 Michael Cohen tapes—but how he came by this knowledge. The only opportunity seems to be a conversation between Avenatti and Cohen at a restaurant. Unless Avenatti has the permission of Cohen’s legal counsel to approach him, that conversation violated the ABA’s ethical standards.
Avenatti’s response was a bluster of red herrings: “Alan, let me say this: you keep saying you don’t want to get personal with me and you keep getting personal with me…I’m gonna tell you I don’t appreciate. I’m willing to put up my track record on the last six months on this case up against yours any day of the week. I have been very, very accurate in my predictions and the statements I’ve made…”
Blah, blah, none of this is relevant. Almost nothing Avenatti said was remotely relevant to the topic of the discussion, except for this: “This information on the Trump Tower meeting — that’s not the best information Cohen has.” To which both Cooper and Dershowitz responded: “How do you know that?”
Avenatti stuttered, remarkably unprepared for the most obvious response to his ridiculous statement, then said he won’t explain how he knows these things. Dershowitz responded that Avenatti may have to answer that question in front of an ethics committee: “If they ask you how you had a conversation with a man who was represented by a lawyer and you didn’t ask his lawyer’s permission, and his lawyer is now apparently complaining about that.”
Avenatti’s then claimed Dershowitz shouldn’t talk about things he doesn’t know anything about. He went on at some length about how Dershowitz doesn’t have access to any communications between Avenatti and Cohen’s counsel in the past or present.
This is significant for two reasons: It affirms that Avenatti understands the principle of rule 4.2, and it implies that there was communication between Avenatti and Cohen’s legal counsel.
Avenatti ended this tirade with a ridiculous jab about Dershowitz attending to his disinvitations at Martha’s Vineyard. This just evidences how little class and credibility Avenatti has and highlights Dershowitz’s integrity as a legal mind.
Dershowitz is a lifelong Democrat who campaigned for Hillary Clinton. He has no relationship with or fondness for Trump. But Dershowitz believes firmly in the Constitution and civil liberty. Because he hasn’t aided the resistance and has chosen to defend Trump for purely legal reasons (as he did Bill Clinton during his impeachment), he has publicly lost friends and connections. Avenatti’s attempt to bully him into silence simply reinforces the stark difference between them. One is a good man with a great legal mind, while the other is an opportunistic thug.
Dershowitz’s response was to stick to whether Avenatti committed an ethical violation: “Are you saying specifically that you were given permission by Michael Cohen’s lawyer to have that conversation with him in the restaurant? That’s a question you should answer specifically, because if you weren’t given permission to have that conversation with Michael Cohen you may have to answer to an ethics committee.”
This is uncontroversial. Dershowitz is an expert on this matter. Avenatti then immediately damned himself: “Alan, Alan guess who gave me permission? Michael Cohen. He gave me permission.”
Dershowitz replied that this is not enough. And he’s right. But it is enough to admit guilt on Avenatti’s part. He strongly implied he didn’t receive permission and therefore violated ABA code. Worst of all his attitude indicates he doesn’t care.
Avenatti then ridiculously claimed Dershowitz doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Dershowitz has a JD from Yale University and taught for three decades at Harvard. If he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, then no one does, least of all a Neanderthal like Avenatti.