Michael Cohen and Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represents adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, are battling over whether Avenatti had the right to publish Cohen’s alleged confidential banking information last week, ABC News reported Tuesday.
Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, asked a New York federal judge to shut Avenatti out of his court case because of the publication. On Tuesday, Avenatti asserted he had a First Amendment right to publish information “of the utmost public concern,” according to court filings.
In a letter to Judge Kimba Wood on May 9, Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan asked Wood to deny Avenatti’s application for pro hac vice admission — which is a request for a lawyer to appear in court despite being licensed in a different state — because “Avenatti is apparently in possession of and has published information from some of Mr. Cohen’s actual bank records” that he has “no lawful basis to possess.”
Cohen’s lawyers told Avenatti that he must first explain to the court how he came to possess and release the records.
Cohen’s letter to the judge asserted that Avenatti’s document contains a “number of blatantly incorrect statements,” citing an example of a payment to an account in Toronto that actually refers to a different Michael Cohen who is a Canadian citizen, as well as another payment from a Kenyan bank that has also apparently identified the wrong Michael Cohen.
Cohen admitted that some of the leaked information was correct, such as payments made to him by business clients AT&T and Novartis. Nevertheless, Cohen claimed that Avenatti has “deliberately distorted information…for the purpose of creating a toxic mix of misinformation.”
Avenatti didn’t reveal how he obtained the records, but said he was in his rights to publish them. He also said that almost all the information he made public was accurate.