Avenatti demands the release of 'Trump tapes' that may not involve Trump â" and may not exist
May 30 at 4:50 PM Email the author
Michael Avenatti, attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, speaks with reporters outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan on May 30. (Philip Bump/The Washington Post)
In a day short on personal victories, Michael Avenatti, attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, declared a new breakthrough after a hearing in federal court Wednesday morning.
âThere was a shocking admission that was made in court today,â Avenatti said before an assembly of reporters and microphones. âNamely, that just like the Nixon tapes years ago, we now have what I will refer to as the âTrump tapes.â â
Before outlining Avenat tiâs allegations, some context is in order. The hearing before Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York was the continuation of a fight over material seized from President Trumpâs personal attorney, Michael Cohen. After federal investigators searched Cohenâs homes and office in April, the potential evidence was held for review to ensure attorney-client privilege was maintained, given Cohenâs occupation. More than 3.7 million individual seized items (documents, files, emails, etc.) exist in varying states of limbo: Some have been cleared to be turned over to the team looking to build a case against Cohen, some have been identified as privileged by Cohenâs team awaiting verification from a third party and some still need to be catalogued.
Avenatti, as you probably know, is not naturally a part of this process. His beef with Cohen is ancillary, stemming from Cohenâs role in negotiating the pre-election hush agreement that silenced Daniels in exchange for $130,000 in cash. Avenatti wasnât Danielsâs attorney at the time; she was represented by a lawyer named Keith Davidson.
On Wednesday, Avenatti explained why he thought he had cause to participate in the discussion of what happened to the material seized from Cohen. He explained that last week, he received a call from a reporter who asked for comment on an audio recording between Cohen and Davidson in which Davidson both discussed Daniels and, allegedly, revealed information that should have been considered privileged between him and his then-client. Avenatti speculated that information about such a recording could have come only from Cohenâs team.
In response, Cohenâs lead attorney, Stephen Ryan, said he was âunaware of any release of an audio file at this time.â He assured the court that audio files collected in the raid were, like the rest of the evidence under his firmâs control, âunder lock and keyâ in his office â" implying that no one else cou ld have released such a file, either. Among those files would be ones involving Keith Davidson or Daniels, âif anyâ existed.
We go back to Avenatti, outside the courtroom after the hearing.
âMr. Ryan admitted that there are audio recordings that Michael Cohen was taking for years and that those recordings are, to quote him, not only do they exist but they are under lock and key â" and some of them relate to my client and her attorney-client privileged communications.â
âMr. Cohen and his attorney Mr. Ryan should release all of those audio recordings to the American people and the Congress so that they can be heard by all, and people can make their own determinations as to their importance relating to the president, and what he knew and when he knew it.â
There are a few rhetorical tricks here worth noting. The first is that Avenatti turns Ryanâs assertion of recordings being under lock and key into something th at sounds much more nefarious than was intended. Avenatti also claims that Ryan admitted recordings related to Daniels exist â" but that isnât the case. (In the courtroom, Avenatti made a similar claim, which Ryan left unchallenged.)
The most obvious trick, of course, is comparing these recordings to those recorded in the Oval Office during the administration of Richard Nixon. Those recordings involved Nixon himself discussing a wide range of subjects including, most famously, efforts to cover up the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. It was the ultimate release of one of those recordings, the âsmoking gunâ tape, that immediately preceded Nixonâs resignation from office.
These recordings, on the other hand, are apparently focused on conversations that Cohen had, not Trump. When news reports about the possible existence of such recordings were first published, it was speculated that recordings of Cohen speaking to Trump might exist, but itâs not clear thatâs the case. These recordings (which, if weâre nitpicking, are certainly not actual tapes) may not include Trump at all. âTrump tapesâ is catchy, but based on what has been reported and what Ryan described in court, itâs quite possibly a misnomer.
Bear in mind, itâs possible that recordings of Trump do exist, just as itâs possible that recordings involving Danielsâs then-attorney or case might exist. (On MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon, Avenatti said it was his âunderstandingâ that recordings of Trump existed.) Ryanâs vague answers in court certainly leave open those possibilities. Itâs not the case, though, that Ryan copped to that being the case Wednesday.
Avenatti does have a track record of breaking news, of course. Earlier this month, Avenatti released a document that revealed large payments that Cohen had received from various businesses during the presidential transition. But Avenattiâs track record isnât flawless. That doc ument also reportedly included transactions involving other people sharing Cohenâs name. Its release, Ryan said in court, amounted to âa drive-by shooting of anyone named Michael Cohen.â
That tendency toward grabbing headlines was not well-received by Judge Wood during Wednesdayâs hearing. Were he granted the right to participate in the process, she said, Avenatti would âhave to stop doing some of the things that youâve been doing.â
Avenattiâs sweeping and unproved allegations about âTrump tapesâ seem like a good example of those things.Source: Google News