Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, is a fixture on CNN and also appears to be weaponized by someone to fight battles against Trump on a broader scale with the Stormy Daniels dispute the excuse, not the reason, Avenatti is involved.

Most notably, Avenatti recently published what appear, at least in part, to be bank records relating to Michael Cohen. There were problems, including the misidentification of payments to the wrong Michael Cohens (in addition to the right Michael Cohen).

The release of bank records raises serious questions as to who is feeding Avenatti information. The bank records are private and the release potentially is a breach of the privacy laws.

The Treasury Department Inspector General is investigating:

The Treasury Department has opened an investigation into whether bank records belonging to President Trump’s private lawyer were illegally leaked to a lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Those records show that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen took payments from corporations — including telecom giant AT&T and drug-maker Novartis — seeking to curry favor with President Trump.

Rich Delmar, the general counsel for the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General, said Wednesday that investigators want to know if the disclosures violated the Bank Secrecy Act.

That law allows the Treasury Department to collect information on suspicious bank transfers, subject to strict privacy provisions….

Avenatti won’t say where he received the information on Cohen’s bank history. But on Twitter, Avenatti challenged reporters to seek out the suspicious activity reports collected by the Treasury Department.

“Why is no media outlet doing a story on the refusal of the Treasury Department to release to the public the 3 Suspicious Activity Reports that were filed concerning Essential Consultants, LLC’s bank account?” Avenatti wrote. “This deserves immediate attention. The SARs should be released now.”

As part of his crusade against Trump via Cohen, Avenatti is seeking to enter an appearance “pro hac vice” as counsel for Stormy Daniels in the court case in the SDNY involving the search warrants executed on Cohen’s law office and home. Pro Hac Vice means that a lawyer who is not a member of the Bar of a court seeks special permission to appear in an action in the court. Such applications are routine, and not usually the subject of objection assuming the attorney is in good standing in another jurisdiction.

The application for Avenatti to appear as counsel is in connection with Daniels’ request to intervene in the case involving the seizure of Cohen’s records by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

On May 9, 2018, Cohen filed an objection (pdf.)(full embed at botton of post) to Avenatti appearing in the case unless and until he reveals his source for the bank records (emphasis added):

… The Court has not issued an order with a briefing schedule for the motion to intervene or Mr. Avenatti’s pro hac vice application, but we now submit this opposition to Mr. Avenatti’s pro hac vice application for the following reasons: (1) yesterday Mr. Avenatti published numerous incorrect statements regarding Mr. Cohen while his pro hac vice motion is pending before the Court; (2) Mr. Avenatti is apparently in possession of and has published information from some
of Mr. Cohen’s actual bank records, and Mr. Cohen is concerned that Mr. Avenatti has no lawful basis to possess those materials; and (3) Mr. Avenatti has made numerous incorrect statements to the public in an apparent attempt to prejudice and discredit Mr. Cohen on this matter for which he seeks admission….

While Mr. Avenatti has published numerous incorrect statements regarding Mr. Cohen, he appears to be in possession of some information from Mr. Cohen’s actual bank records. Mr. Avenatti has published information from these records, such as the identities of and payments made by Mr. Cohen’s business clients, such as AT&T and Novartis. Ex. A at 3-4. These business clients have not been previously identified in public. We understand that the Government now possesses these records as a result of the seizures executed on April 9, 2018, and prior seizures, but we are not aware of any lawful attempts by Mr. Avenatti to obtain these records. We note that prior to this submission, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Treasury initiated an investigation into whether these bank records were “improperly disseminated.”….

We have no reason to believe that Mr. Avenatti is in lawful possession of these bank records. If Mr. Avenatti wishes to be admitted pro hac vice before this Court, he should be required to explain to this Court how he came to possess and release this information. The details of when Mr. Cohen was paid by these business clients – whose names had not previously been made public – have no relation to the litigation in which he represents Ms. Clifford or any purported reasons he may have to appear before this Court.

Given that appearing pro hac vice is not a right, and the public release of confidential bank records by Avenatti raises questions, I would expect the court to seriously consider the request to require Avenatti to disclose where he obtained the record. After all, Avenatti wants to appear in a case involving disputes as to the confidentiality of law office and other records, but has shown a willingness to disseminate arguably confidential bank records.

UPDATE 5-11-2018

The Court has ordered that if Avenetti wants to be heard at an upcoming May 24 conference, he will have to file a formal motion for admission pro hac vice by May 17. That would bring the objections Cohen has raised before the court pretty quickly.

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Cohen v. USA – Cohen Letter to Court Re Michael Avenatti May 9 2018 by Legal Insurrection on Scribd