Michael Avenatti suggests Stormy Daniels' strip club arrest was a "setup"

Stormy Daniels was arrested at a strip club in Ohio after an undercover cop touched her while she was on stage

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 12, 2018 10:29AM (EDT)

Stormy Daniels (Franklin County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Stormy Daniels (Franklin County Sheriff's Office via AP)

UPDATE: The charges against Daniels have been dropped, according to the BBC.

Stephanie "Stormy Daniels" Clifford, the adult film actress who claims that she had a consensual affair with Donald Trump in 2006, was arrested at an Ohio strip club on Wednesday in an incident that her lawyer has described as a "setup."

On Thursday morning, Avenatti appeared on MSNBC to discuss the case against his client.

"She appeared at the strip club, Sirens, in Columbus... to perform the same performance that she's performed across the country," Avenatti explained. "She was there for her performance and, unbeknownst to her, the police had set up a sting operation within the strip club with multiple officers during her performance. They asked her if they could place their face in between her breasts while she was performing on stage."

Avenatti stopped short of accused police of entrapment, but said, "it's an absurd use of law enforcement resources."

The court documents pertaining to Daniels' arrest, as reported by a local Fox affiliate in Cleveland, tell a somewhat different story.

According to police, Daniels "began forcing the faces of the patrons into her chest and using her bare breasts to smack the patrons." It then claimed that she did this act to three police officers who were at the club at the time.

Avenatti took to Twitter on Thursday to inform his followers that Daniels will be charged with a misdemeanor for allowing "touching" and that "we will vehemently contest all charges," as well as adding that Daniels will be pleading "not guilty" to the three misdemeanor charges against her. He also included a statement from Daniels to her fans.

"As a result of what happened last night, I will, unfortunately, be unable to go forward with tonight's scheduled performance. I deeply apologize to my fans in Columbus," Avenatti quoted Daniels as saying in her tweet.

One Ohio law that may have been the cause of Daniels' arrest is the Community Defense Act, which makes it illegal for individuals aren't related to nude or semi-nude dancers to touch them while they're performing, according to USA Today. The law, however, is rarely prosecuted, raising questions about why so many officers were present for Daniels' arrest.

Avenatti has become something of a major public figure since Daniels came forward with her accusations against Trump. In addition to representing the porn star, Avenatti has also taken on other clients whose cases are connected to the president, from comedian John Melendez (who claimed to have prank called the president) to a number of the parents who have been forcibly separated from their children due to Trump's immigration policies, according to The Washington Post.

Regarding the latter, Avenatti took to Twitter on Wednesday to describe how he had been denied access to children of undocumented immigrants who had been separated from their families. He also said that, after his tweet and the media coverage of the incident, he was allowed to see them.

Earlier this week, Avenatti also delivered a speech at Public Justice discussing his heartbreaking experience talking with the children of undocumented immigrants who had been forcibly separated from their parents by Trump.

"The lawyer in me started thinking about how to file cases," Avenatti said. "But the father in me slipped each mother a piece of paper through the small slot under the glass and asked her to write a letter to her stolen child." After describing how one of the children didn't trust him, didn't believe that the letter had come from his mother and doubted whether his mother actually loved him, Avenatti warmed to his broader theme of how Trump has destroyed America's vision.

"Donald Trump is hoping that people like us don't see the connection between our own ancestors and the immigrants arriving today," Avenatti told the crowd. "Donald Trump is hoping people like us see this as us against them."

He added, "And so I want to say this as plainly as I can: These are our people, too."

Avenatti has also indicated that he may run for president in 2020. During an appearance on CNN earlier this month, Avenatti told his hosts that he felt there were a number of key issues that he felt were important to liberals and that he would campaign for the White House if the Democrats did not produce someone he felt was strong enough to defeat the president.

"I am interested in talking about ripping kids from the sides of their mothers. I am interested in having allies laugh at us around the world. I am interested in where all those jobs are that he promised Americans in key electoral states. I am interested in pro-choice and a whole host of other issues," Avenatti told CNN.

He added, "So look, I hope somebody that’s competent enough to beat this guy . . . steps forward. If they don’t, I will."

When Avenatti spoke to Salon about the Stormy Daniels case in June, he also discussed the sexism that he believes is behind much of the response that his client has received since coming forward with her story about the president.

"Why do we even talk about it as an undercurrent of the misogyny?" Avenatti told Salon. "I think it's front-and-center misogyny. I think that Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani share those views, and I think they're disgusting. I think that, ultimately, women in America are going to make them pay the price. Whether it’s in 2018 or 2020, at least, I’d certainly hope so. I think there should be a very stiff price to be paid."

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By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Donald Trump Michael Avenatti Stormy Daniels