Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, on trial for federal fraud charges, continued his cross-examination of his former client Stormy Daniels for several hours on Friday, punctuated by contentious exchanges about their relationship and her relationship with former President Donald Trump.
Avenatti, on trial for allegedly stealing nearly $300,000 in book advance payments from adult-film actress Daniels, is representing himself, and Judge Jesse Furman several times stepped in during sharp exchanges.
Prosecutors allege that Avenatti – who helped negotiate the $800,000 advance for her October 2018 book, “Full Disclosure” – defrauded her by instructing her literary agent to send two of the four installments of the book advance to an account controlled by him, rather than directly to Daniels.
He allegedly sent a fabricated letter to the agent with a manufactured signature from Daniels redirecting book advance payments from Daniels’ account to another account he controlled without her knowledge, prosecutors say.
At one point, when Avenatti asked if Daniels told the government during pretrial interviews that he was typically “nice and respectful,” his former client said, “You lied to me, that’s not respectful.”
Daniels eventually conceded that she’d made the statement but said, “I was wrong.”
Avenatti also rehashed the 2016 hush money payments Michael Cohen made to Daniels on behalf of Trump, and Daniels’ previous denial of having an affair. (Trump has denied the affair.)
Cohen made an appearance in court Friday but was not in the courtroom during this exchange.
Daniels testified she denied media reports that she’d had a “romantic affair” with Trump at the time, “because it was not romantic.”
Avenatti also peppered Daniels with questions about the January 2018 statements and her defense of it in media interviews including a March 2018 appearance on CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”
“I did not have a relationship with Donald Trump,” Daniels said Friday.
Unprompted, Daniels added, “I don’t consider getting cornered coming out of the bathroom to be an affair.”
Prosecutors intend to rest the government’s case Monday after calling a law enforcement witness. Avenatti is expected to begin his defense case then and told the court he is “strongly leaning in favor of testifying.”