Porn star’s lawyer to US president?

Michael Avenatti © Alamy
Avenatti: buffing up his fighter image

At last, a contender for president who is as colourful as the incumbent. What are his chances?

The forthcoming American midterm elections are seen as the starting gun for the next presidential contest, and many politicians are considering entering the race. The problem is that most of them are disappointingly sober, well qualified and serious – and where’s the fun in that? So one is relieved that Michael Avenatti – best known as the personal lawyer of “adult” actress Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) – is seeking to change all that. Unbowed by the fact that a judge recently dismissed Daniels’s libel lawsuit against the president, Avenatti has “thrown his hat firmly into the ring to become the next Democratic candidate for president”, says James Desborough for the Daily Mail. At a convention last Saturday he “issued battle cries on behalf of the Democrats, urging the party to fight a brutal campaign against Trump in 2020”.

A lavish lifestyle

Like Trump, Avenatti is not afraid of making bold claims. Before he became Trump’s “tweet-baiting nemesis”, he claims he “was racking up a list of legal victories that resulted in a string of multimillion-dollar verdicts”, says Kate Briquelet for the Daily Beast. He’s won more than $1bn on behalf of his clients, he says, including a single $454m verdict (later reduced to $25m). His victories have allowed him to fund a “lavish” lifestyle. He has a multimillion-dollar home in Newport Beach, travels by private jet, and has a collection of art and exotic cars. His ex-wife claims her monthly credit-card bill “was historically an average of $60,000 to $70,000”.

Avenatti has had a decidedly mixed business record, however. He purchased a coffee chain for $9.15m in 2013 at a bankruptcy auction, but his plans for a java empire “went up in flames”. All of the stores were shut down when the chain was “accused in lawsuits of failing to pay trademarking fees and rent on [its] locations”.

The taxman also ended up out of pocket, with public records revealing that the chain “owes millions in unpaid state and federal taxes – including a nearly $5m federal tax lien”. In addition to the unpaid corporate taxes, records show that Avenatti “has personally owed at least $1.2m in federal taxes on top of the corporate debts”, though he claims that these debts are now “fully paid”.

A Warholian dash of fame

Despite these problems, some people take Avenatti seriously. “If Trump could ascend from the greenroom to the Oval Office, from the artifice of TV studios to the high stakes of international summits, why not a porn star’s lawyer?” asks Dick Polman in the Atlantic. Avenatti may be carrying some baggage, but “Trump’s is weightier”. Avenatti’s two bankruptcies are nothing to Trump’s six. As for the tax, “Trump still won’t even release his tax returns”.

Realistically, even the most fanatical Avenatti supporter will have to accept he probably won’t be president (if he runs). His Warholian 15 minutes is likely to expire. But for the foreseeable future at least, “he’s free to flash his wares and buff his fighter image one greenroom at a time”.

Tabloid money… The Boss rakes it in

• I did wonder why American singing legend Bruce Springsteen decided to extend his Broadway show in New York, says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. I mean, “The Boss”, who gave us such hits as Born to Run and Born in the USA, is nearly 70 years old. So why on earth would the ageing rocker want to climb up on stage every single night to tell the same old stories and sing the same old songs? Then the penny dropped. I found out that the tickets to his concerts are $900 a show. The venue he is using to perform his hits, the Walter Kerr Theatre, has a seating capacity of 975. That means the show is raking in $877,500 – every single night.

• I have often predicted we in Britain would soon be applying for full membership of the Third World, says Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday. But now I think I’m beginning to suspect that we may actually have joined it. That’s because, last week, my regular railway line, in the throes of a vastly expensive and interminable modernisation, grossly behind time and over budget, was shut down. Why? Because a test train ran along it and managed to pull down 500 yards of newly-installed electric cable. But this was just an inventive new sort of mess. Usually, it’s due to “signal failure”, the weather being too hot or too cold or too windy, or it’s due to the mysterious disappearance of the crew. Are they being abducted by aliens?

• The Royal Mint is bringing out a special £5 coin to celebrate Prince Charles’s 70th birthday next month, and I’m as thrilled as every moron at this news, says Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. Cynics ask what he’s done to deserve having his 70th birthday marked, but they miss the point. Three score years and ten has always been the lifetime of the average person. To not only reach that age, but also accrue £300m on the way, while waiting to start the only job you’re going to get in life, is a miraculous achievement. Meanwhile, the petition to put Margaret Thatcher’s face on the new £50 note had drawn 15,600 signatures as of last week. Another petition, to instead use the picture of footballer Harry Maguire riding an inflatable unicorn, achieved 42,500.