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Attorney Michael Avenatti. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Michael Avenatti was a hot conversation topic Saturday night at Trump Hotel, where administration officials gathered for happy hour with advisers from the outside groups who poured money and energy into confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

What we're hearing: At one point in the evening, a senior person at one of the outside groups joked that Avenatti might have been on the Republican payroll. "You guys put Avenatti up to it, right?" the person said, according to a source at the party.

  • "I can't overstate how important Michael Avenatti's role in this [confirmation] was" in adding to undecided senators' doubts about the allegations being leveled at Kavanaugh, the source added.
  • The source noted that Sen. Susan Collins specifically mentioned the gang rape and drug peddling allegations leveled by Avenatti's client, Julie Swetnick, when she explained why she decided to vote for Kavanaugh.

I asked Avenatti on Sunday what he made of this criticism. "This is complete garbage," he said, "and reflects an effort by the Republicans to discredit me in light of the comments recently made by Steve Bannon and others. They are threatened by me and rightfully should be."

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

3 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.