Stormy Daniels‘ attorney Michael Avenatti was clearly pleased Thursday afternoon that President Donald Trump denied knowing about a $130,000 payment to Daniels orchestrated by lawyer Michael Cohen. He went so far as to thank Trump for helping his case.
CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said Friday morning, however, not so fast, Mr. Avenatti.
Before we get to what Callan said, let’s recap what Trump and Avenatti said.
President Trump says he did not know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. Asked why Cohen made payment, Trump said: "You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is my attorney you’ll have to ask him." Trump adds he did not know where Cohen got money
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) April 5, 2018
“You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is my attorney, you’ll have to ask him,” Trump told a gaggle of reporters Thursday on Air Force One. He also said he didn’t know where the $130,000 came from.
“No, I don’t know,” he said.
Avenatti then thanked Trump on Twitter for helping his case.
Good (actually GREAT) things come to those who wait!!! The strength of our case just went up exponentially. You can't have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it. #nodiscipline #thanksforplaying #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 5, 2018
“Good (actually GREAT) things come to those who wait!!! The strength of our case just went up exponentially. You can’t have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it. #nodiscipline #thanksforplaying #basta,” he said, presumably with an impish grin.
Callan said while there “may be problems” with Avenatti’s analysis, if Cohen had “no authority given to him by the president to negotiate deals like this,” there would be an ethical problem.
“He could be brought up on charges. Lawyers have to consult with their clients before they enter into deals. That’s true,” he said.
Callan theorized that Trump is trying to set up a defense that “Cohen was sort of his minister of disgruntled mistresses.”
“In other words, he had his lawyer acting as an agent to go out and negotiate settlements with people who might cause problems for him, and he might have given him that general authority,” Callan said. “Maybe he even said you can spend up to $130,000 to get rid of one of these problems legally, and Cohen is out doing this.”
Finally, Callan questioned Avenatti’s claim that Trump’s remarks made his case stronger. Callan said “not necessarily” for two reasons: if Cohen had general authority to negotiate, it’s a legal contract; Trump may be a third-party beneficiary.
“If it turns out that Cohen had general authority to negotiate on behalf of the president, it’s a legal contract,” he said. “Secondly, lawyers talk about something called a third-party beneficiary theory. That is you can enter into a contract with somebody else to help a third party. A grandmother maybe wants to buy a car for her granddaughter to reward her for good grades. She can go in, do the deal, and the car dealership has to give the car to the granddaughter. That’s a third-party beneficiary, so they’re going to be saying the president was the third-party beneficiary of a contract negotiated between Cohen and this EC, LLC and Stormy Daniels.”
[screengrab via CNN]