Updated Jun 13, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Timeline: The rise and fall of Michael Avenatti

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels.

Photo: Jennifer S. Altman/for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorney Michael Avenatti was at one point considered to be a rising Democratic star — one who was even contemplating a 2020 run after positioning himself as a champion of women’s rights and an outspoken foil to President Trump.

What's new: Avenatti is being sued for at least $9.5 million by a former client — a man who is paralyzed and claims the attorney siphoned $4 million from a settlement he had won. The claims underlying the suit are tied up in a federal prosecutors’ criminal case against Avenatti, over various matters in California and New York.


March–August 2018: Avenatti becomes a household name, dominating cable news shows to relentlessly taunt the president.

  • He files three lawsuits on behalf of Stephanie Clifford, "Stormy" Daniels: One seeks to nullify a nondisclosure agreement Daniels signed in 2016 prohibiting her from discussing an affair she had with Trump; one claims that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen conspired with the president to keep her quiet; and the last accuses Trump of defaming Daniels on Twitter. 
  • He also seeks to position himself as the face of Democrats' opposition to Trump, giving fiery speeches in Democratic circles that often attract presidential hopefuls.

October 2018: Avenatti faces backlash after filing what many believe is a falsified sexual misconduct claim on behalf of a client against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats say he hurts their case against Kavanaugh, while Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley refer him and his client to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.

  • He is also scrutinized for telling Time magazine in an interview that the 2020 Democratic nominee "better be a white male." He says only a white man can be taken seriously.

November 2018: Avenatti is arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic violence, dealing the most significant blow yet to his political ambitions. After news breaks of his arrest, the Vermont Democratic Party cancels two events at which he was the featured speaker. Avenatti denies any wrongdoing. Next February, prosecutors will conclude that he won't face criminal charges for this.

December 2018: Avenatti announces on Twitter that he will not be running for president in 2020.

February 2019: Avenatti agrees to give up control of his longtime law firm after a former partner accuses him of "hiding millions of dollars from the court that oversaw its bankruptcy," the Los Angeles Times reports.

March 2019: Daniels says she has retained another attorney and she and Avenatti are parting ways, USA Today reports.

  • Federal prosecutors in New York later announce Avenatti is being charged for attempting to extort $20 million from Nike. Prosecutors in California also charge him with wire and bank fraud.

April 2019: Federal prosecutors in California announce 36 charges against Avenatti for fraud, perjury, tax evasion, embezzlement and other financial crimes. Per the L.A. Times, Avenatti would face a maximum sentence of 335 years in prison if convicted on all 36 counts — not including his cases in New York and Los Angeles.

  • Avenatti pleaded not guilty in California on April 30 to charges he stole millions of dollars from clients who were awarded settlements, per ABC News.

May 2019: Avenatti pleaded not guilty before a federal judge in New York on Tuesday, May 28 to charges of wire fraud and aggregated identity theft involving his former client Stephanie Clifford, "Stormy Daniels."

  • He also pleaded "100% not guilty!" on Tuesday to charges that he extorted Nike.

June 2019: Avenatti is being sued by a former client — a man who is paralyzed and claims the attorney siphoned $4 million from a settlement he had won, reports Reuters.

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