Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stephanie Clifford, has withdrawn his request to participate in Michael Cohen's case, after the judge in the case chastised him, saying that he'd have to stop his "publicity tour" first.
Avenatti had filed a motion to intervene in the case, as the Trump Organization and lawyers for the president had, and his motion has been held in abeyance, meaning that it's indefinitely suspended.
Avenatti claims that a reporter was shown audio recordings released by Cohen of conversations with Clifford's former lawyer Keith Davidson regarding Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, and he believes her attorney-client privilege has been compromised. Avenatti said the existence of such recordings was "surprising and disturbing."
Wood reminded Avenatti that at this point, he has no standing in the case. And Stephan Ryan, Cohen's attorney, vociferously opposed Avenatti's application to appear before the court. Avenatti's involvement in the case so far, Ryan argued, has "turned (it) on it's head." He called Avenatti's media appearances "reckless and improper" and reminded the court that Avenatti had released some of Cohen's bank records to the media -- a "premeditated drive-by shooting of [Cohen's] rights," Ryan told the court. Avenatti showed reporters records of hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions between Cohen LLC Essential Consultants and companies including. There is now a Treasury Inspector General investigation into Cohen's release of the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), Ryan told the court.
Avenatti dismissed Ryan's opposition as "quite the tale," but Wood warned him not to comment. Avenatti said that he has not been contacted by the government about an investigation.
Wood told Avenatti that there are certain "professional responsibilities" that lawyers in New York must follow, and should he wish to intervene in the case, he would not be able to voice his opinions on Cohen's guilt or innocence, he would not be allowed to make private documents public, and he would have to stop his "publicity tour." She told Avenatti he's free to continue to behave the way he has been -- unless, that is, he is appearing before her.
Trump attorney Joanna Hendon also weighed in, mentioning the media scene outside the courthouse.
"I don't think that podium is for Michael Cohen," she remarked.
Avenatti snapped at her, saying her client, the president, has tweeted and spoken about this case in the media in great detail. "The irony is palpable," he said.
"I don't know what this is," Hendon responded. She then presented the court with records regarding Avenatti's firm, Eagan Avenatti, that she said indicated Clifford is being represented by the firm. Avenatti has said that Clifford is not represented by Eagan Avenatti, his former law firm, which was just hit with a $10 million judgment by a federal bankruptcy court. Avenatti claims that Clifford is represented by his other firm, Avenatti and Associates. However, Avenatti's correspondence with the president's counsel shows otherwise.
In a filing after court Avenatti withdrew his motion to appear in the case. However, Clifford's motion to intervene is remains in abeyance and should be scheduled for a hearing soon.
Judge Wood closed the hearing by reminding the court that the urgency to resolve the privilege issue quickly is rooted in the balance between concerns of attorney-client privilege and the need for the investigation to take its course.
After the hearing, Avenatti spoke to reporters outside the court and claimed that the court proceedings Wednesday revealed that "just like the Nixon tapes years ago, we now have what I will refer to as 'the Trump tapes.'"
He said that Ryan "admitted that there are audio recordings that Michael Cohen was taking for years, and that those recordings are, to quote him, 'not only do they exist, but they are under lock and key,' and some of them relate to my client and her attorney-client privilege communications."
Avenatti called on Ryan to release the audio recordings. Avenatti has accused Cohen or an associate of leaking a recording of a conversation between Cohen and Daniels' first attorney, Keith Davidson, which Avenatti said should be privileged.