U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 44 mins

Avenatti Alleges Cohen's Team Is Leaking Audio Related to Stormy Daniels

[caption id="attachment_27728" align="alignleft" width="620"] Michael Avenatti outside the Daniel P. Moynihan Courthouse in Manhattan after an April hearing. Photo Credit: David Handschuh/NYLJ.[/caption] The attorney representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels accused Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Tuesday of leaking "selected audio recordings" that are allegedly part of the trove of material seized during the execution of a search warrant on Cohen's offices and home by federal authorities in April. The audio Cohen is allegedly leaking is believed to relate to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, her attorney Michael Avenatti stated in a letter to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York Tuesday. "We think that these select leaks are meant to paint a false narrative relating to Mr. Cohen and his business dealings at the same time he is not disclosing numerous other recordings of him speaking with individuals such as Mr. Trump," Avenatti stated. Reached by phone Avenatti declined to expound on the specifics of what the audio contains, or who it may have been leaked to. The current swirl of controversy around Cohen began over revelations he paid Clifford $130,000 shortly before the 2016 presidential election, as part of a nondisclosure agreement to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she alleges having with Trump a decade earlier. Clifford has since sued over the NDA, claiming it's invalid and stating among her reasons the fact Trump never added his signature. That action, brought with the help of Avenatti and now in federal court, led off what would become a raft of revelations about Cohen. Most recently, Avenatti began publicly releasing information that purported to show Cohen receiving millions in payments into the same account used to pay Clifford from companies like AT&T, Novartis, and even an international firm reportedly connected to a Russian oligarch just after Trump's election in 2016. Clifford's legal action in California dovetailed with the Manhattan U.S. attorney's criminal investigation in New York when Avenatti appeared before Wood, asking for his client to be allowed as an intervenor in Cohen's current push in Manhattan federal court. He brought the action over attorney-client privilege concerns connected to material seized by the government. Wood appeared ready to allow Clifford to intervene, based on a belief that some of the material seized by the government may actually have privilege materials attached to Clifford. However, the government asked for the request to be held in abeyance, pending conversations with Avenatti. It was after the government's request to hold off on Clifford's intervention that Cohen's attorneys filed memos with the court objecting to Avenatti's pro hac vice application. According to Cohen's attorney, McDermott Will & Emery partner Stephen Ryan, Avenatti's public statements degrading Cohen, as well as his release of Cohen's sensitive banking records, had created a "carnival atmosphere" around the case in Manhattan. In his letter to the court Tuesday, Avenatti said that, if it was in fact Cohen leaking audio related to Clifford, such a move would "plainly call into question the seriousness of Mr. Cohen's arguments opposing my pro hac vice motion." Avenatti also noted that the leaks could "directly interfere" with the privilege review currently being handled by former Manhattan federal judge and Bracewell partner Barbara Jones, who Wood appointed as special master. He went on to ask Wood to make inquiries of Cohen's attorneys about the nature of the leaks. Cohen's attorney Ryan did not respond to a request for comment on Avenatti's claims.

Michael Avenatti outside the Daniel P. Moynihan Courthouse in Manhattan after an April hearing. Photo: David Handschuh/NYLJ