Michael Avenatti addressed his claim that Michael Cohen is leaking audio recordings seized by the FBI -- and now he's saying it's 'just like' Nixon

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty ImagesMichael Avenatti.
  • Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, is zeroing in on what he’s calling the “Trump Tapes” after appearing in longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s court case on Wednesday.
  • Avenatti’s day in court did not go as planned, as Judge Kimba Wood did not grant his motion to appear in the case moving forward.
  • Avenatti has alleged that Cohen or an associate selectively leaked to the media audio obtained by the FBI in raids on his home, office, and hotel room.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, is zeroing in on what he’s calling the “Trump Tapes” after appearing in court Wednesday in the Southern District of New York.

Last week, Avenatti alleged that Michael Cohen, a longtime lawyer for President Donald Trump, or his lawyers were selectively leaking audio tapes seized in FBI raids to media outlets. Avenatti also seemed to suggest that there were audio recordings of conversations between Trump and Cohen in the documents obtained by the FBI during the raids on Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room, but that Cohen had not leaked those.

It was not clear to what exactly Avenatti was referring. The attorney did not point to any specific media reports, and none appeared to be based off such leaks in the days that followed.

But during the latest hearing in Cohen’s criminal case, Avenatti expanded on his claim. He told US District Judge Kimba Wood that he was recently contacted by a reporter who said he had a recording that he believed was made by Cohen.

“From what I understood there were audio recordings” between Cohen and Daniels’s former lawyer, Keith Davidson, “regarding attorney-client privilege,” Avenatti said. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Trump and Cohen in California to void a nondisclosure deal facilitated by Cohen that she signed to stay silent about an alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

Davidson, who has been under fire from Avenatti in recent weeks, was Daniels’s attorney at the time she struck the agreement with Cohen. The agreement was struck just weeks before the 2016 presidential election, and Trump recently admitted, through his latest financial disclosure, that he reimbursed Cohen for the expenditure – something Cohen initially said he did not do.

In court on Wednesday, Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, did not deny that such tapes existed, but said he was “unaware” of any that were released to the media. Ryan said such recordings were guarded by his law firm “under lock and key.”

“If we had released the audiotape to a reporter, it would have been the biggest story in America,” Ryan said.

Michael CohenSpencer Platt/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen.

Avenatti argued that the existence of such tapes, which he said contain privileged communications involving his client, is reason for Daniels to intervene in the case. Cohen is under criminal investigation for possible campaign-finance violations and bank fraud, but he has not been charged with a crime.

Once court adjourned, Avenatti began calling for Cohen and his attorneys to release all of their recordings to Congress and the public.

His public call came moments after Wood called on him to end his “publicity tour” if he wanted to be admitted into Cohen’s case. Soon after, Avenatti withdrew that petition to appear pro hac vice, although Daniels’s motion to intervene still stands. That motion is on hold.

“Just like the Nixon tapes years ago we now have what I will refer to as the Trump Tapes,” Avenatti told reporters outside the lower Manhattan courthouse.

Asked by Business Insider if he was disappointed at all by the day’s proceedings, which featured Wood chiding him over his media strategy and putting his motion to appear on hold, Avenatti said he was not and pointed to Ryan’s comments about the recordings.

“I think that today will become a seminal moment in our nation’s modern history because we have an admission that the attorney for the president of the United States was recording conversations with the president for years on end, and those recordings were seized by the FBI and they presently exist,” he said. “I think when those recordings are disclosed, they’re going to pose a host of problems for Michael Cohen and for the president.”

The documents obtained by the government in the Cohen raids are currently undergoing a review for what falls under attorney-client privilege and what can be used by prosecutors in a case against Cohen.

Avenatti said the tapes “would have likely been destroyed if it wasn’t for the raid by the FBI.”

“Many, many audio recordings that for whatever reason Michael Cohen created and then cut,” he said. “And ultimately they will be his downfall and they could be the downfall of this presidency.”

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