Michael Avenatti for president? Climate tops his agenda

By Adam Aton | 09/27/2018 08:45 AM EDT

Attorney Michael Avenatti has hit President Trump on extramarital affairs, hush money and sexual assault. Next up, climate change?

Lawyer Michael Avenatti (left) has flirted with running for public office.

Lawyer Michael Avenatti (left) has flirted with running for public office. Avenatti/Twitter

Attorney Michael Avenatti has hit President Trump on extramarital affairs, hush money and sexual assault. Next up, climate change?

Avenatti, who’s talking up his prospects as a 2020 presidential contender, pinned to his Twitter profile a list of his positions on 20 issues. The first words are climate change.

"Climate change is an urgent threat. I believe America should be a leader in taking bold steps to tackle climate change, including rejoining the Paris Agreement, investing heavily in renewable energy, reducing oil consumption, and setting more ambitious targets for cutting carbon pollution. I believe that America should be the world’s leader in clean energy," he wrote.


The list is alphabetical, so it’s hard to say how much the political newcomer might lean on climate if he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination. He also lists vague support for progressive items like universal Medicare coverage and banning assault rifles.

Avenatti spent the summer casting himself as Trump’s chief antagonist. He leveraged his clients’ lawsuits against the president into frequent cable news appearances, and he has traveled to Iowa to glad-hand local officeholders. Now he has inserted himself into the fall’s biggest fight: the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

"He’s making a splash. … This is the kind of thing that’s certainly well-received [among Democrats] here in Iowa," said Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa.

Screenshot of a portion of a list of important issues that Michael Avenatti released in August. Document credit: @MichaelAvenatti/Twitter
Avenatti in August released a list of 20 issues that are important to him. | @MichaelAvenatti/Twitter

Although Trump has upended the conventional standards for presidential candidates, Hagle pointed out that Avenatti still lacks many of his advantages. He’s not as wealthy, and he hasn’t spent decades in the media spotlight as Trump has.

"If he’s somehow able to somehow turn that celebrity into a more substantive campaign, then maybe he does have a shot. But I just don’t see it right now," he said.

The woman Avenatti represents, Julie Swetnick, accuses Kavanaugh and his friends of slipping alcohol and drugs to girls to make them easier to assault. In a sworn statement, she said Kavanaugh had lined up outside the rooms where intoxicated girls were "gang raped" and that he was present when it happened to her.

Even before the allegations against Kavanaugh became public, Republicans had accused Democrats like Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey of using the nomination hearings to audition for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Swetnick and Avenatti won’t testify at today’s Senate hearing on Kavanaugh’s allegations. But Republicans have already latched on to Avenatti to discredit Swetnick’s account.

Trump on Twitter called Avenatti "a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations."

Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, "The lawyer to porn stars has just taken this debacle to an even lower level. I hope people will be highly suspicious of this allegation presented by Michael Avenatti."

Avenatti represents Stormy Daniels, the porn star who said Trump had an affair with her and arranged illegal payments to cover it up. The case was eventually corroborated by Michael Cohen, the longtime Trump lawyer who flipped on the president last month.

For his part, Avenatti seems to resemble Trump in his willingness to challenge detractors.

"Trump is a moron," Avenatti tweeted last night. "He knows nothing about me or my client. He is trying to divert attention away from Julie as a smokescreen. I challenge him to debate me regarding Kavanaugh and his accusers and our respective backgrounds. He will never agree because he is a coward and weak."