Yesterday the media was in full excitement as Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, appeared on a number of news networks concerning Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. The news panels were atitter with his releasing of private financial information that showed Cohen had received payments from a number of companies. As I wrote yesterday, his being in possession of these documents raised the question of legality, and now he may be at risk of facing charges as a result.
Avenatti’s claims were circumstantial at best. He insinuated the payments were unethical, and tried to tie them to the settlement that was paid to his client. There were a number of problems with his claims in what the networks called a “bombshell”. He showed no legal problem with the consulting fees paid to Cohen. He insinuated the money made up a slush-fund that paid off his client, yet the bulk of the payments he showed were made after she received her payment. He also implied Russian collusion with the appearance of the name of a Russian oligarch, except that very oligarch was slapped with sanctions by Trump’s administration.
Now Michael Avenatti is possibly facing numerous legal problems for his document reveal on May 8. His being in possession of Cohen’s records is being challenged, as Cohen’s lawyers stated in a court filing that Avenatti should not have been revealing private records. More than that Avenatti has, very quickly, become the focus of government investigators.
The Treasury Department’s Inspector General is now investigating if Michael Cohen’s banking records have been illegally leaked. These are not easy to obtain records. There are questions whether Avenatti received banking Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR), or if this stems from the Mueller investigation and the raiding of Cohen’s offices. “The language in his dossier is “consistent with” wording typically found in SARs, said Daniel P. Stipano, former deputy chief counsel in the Treasury’s Office, told the Washington Post. “This has the appearance of a leak. It shouldn’t happen, but things leak.”
One other problem with Avenatti’s report: He released private banking information of other individuals. It appears he did not properly verify all of the transactions, as some of those noted in his report concerned other individuals named Michael Cohen. Avenatti had been contacted by one Canadian businessman who discovered his financials had been exposed by the porn star’s lawyer, and Israel’s Haaretz found another instance of mistaken banking made by Avenatti.
The press this morning seemed far less enthusiastic in detailing the ways Avenatti’s report generated these problematic results. The curious part is how quickly the government moved on investigating the Avenatti report. What will be worth watching is from what source the lawyer was delivered these financials.
If he culled them from banking SAR there may be repercussions with his exposing them so publicly. If his intel came from inside the Mueller investigation there may be even greater trouble for the litigant.