Avenatti Surrounds Himself in Controversy as He Prepares for a Presidential Bid

Tor Anderbeck

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It is unclear who attorney Michael Avenatti is trying to please. In the past few weeks, he has managed to antagonize both liberals and conservatives. According to CNN, Senator Chuck Grassley has referred Avenatti to the Justice Department for criminal investigation for lying about Kavanaugh to the judicial committee. This came after Avenatti and his client, Julie Swetnick, failed to give any corroborating evidence to Swetnick’s story and after Swetnick made several claims that contradicted her original account.

In his letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI director Christopher Wray, Grassley wrote: “When charlatans make false claims to the Committee — claims that may earn them short-term media exposure and financial gain, but which hinder the Committee’s ability to do its job — there should be consequences.” 

Avenatti responded by saying Swetnick was “100 percent credible.”

It is no surprise that Republicans have aligned themselves against Avenatti, given his painstaking efforts to bring down President Trump. On the other hand, opposing Trump is nothing unusual for the Left. Allegations of obstructing justice, however, are something that should not be taken lightly. Especially when the man in question is preparing to run for president. Adding to the controversy surrounding him is that, according to ABC News, Avenatti is resisting a judge’s ruling that he must pay a former associate a $4.85 million debt. Not a great week for the lawyer.

Progressives are also upset at Avenatti, but for a different reason: In an interview with Time magazine about the Democratic nominee for 2020, he said, “I think it better to be a white male” and that “When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.” In the same interview, he also called women too “soft” to challenge Trump and said, “I do think it is a critical mistake for anyone other than a white male to lead the top of the ticket in 2020.”

How does Avenatti expect to win over Democrats with rhetoric that would alienate many conservative voters?

The notion that women and minorities are too weak to win a presidential race is both offensive and false. Our country elected a black man twice and in 2016 a woman, even an unpopular one, won the popular vote. Much of Avenatti’s appeal so far has been his wildly anti-Trump statements, yet he seems to have embraced President Trump’s way of saying whatever he thinks however much it offends people. It’s hard to imagine how this will play out when targeted at a liberal base.

The Left has embraced identity politics; there is no question about it. In the Democratic Party, candidates seem to have an advantage when they are female, a member of a racial minority, or both. This is in part because the Democratic Party depends heavily on these groups for votes and also because it makes them come across as more subversive to the status quo as they enter institutions that have historically been white men’s clubs.

This trend, while good for democracy, is not good for Avenatti. To most Democrats, he now represents an opposing identity politics–that of preferring white men to other classes of people. This strategy will not get him very far with the Democrats. Regardless, it will be entertaining for people on both the Right and the Left to watch him flame out.