Associated Press / YouTube Stormy Daniels Lawyer Confident About Case...
Associated Press / YouTube

Several weeks ago, when Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti was delighting in Donald Trump finally breaking his silence on the $130,000 hush-money payment executed by Michael Cohen, Avenatti made the point that Cohen was about to come under intense pressure as the lynchpin in both the Stormy saga and the Russia probe.

“If this guy doesn’t hold up ultimately,” he observed, “very bad things are going to happen to this administration.”

That was the Thursday before the FBI’s no-knock raid of Cohen’s office and residences that have infinitely increased Donald Trump’s legal jeopardy—expanding it beyond the Russia/election probe and into at least a decade of Trump’s seedy business dealings.

In other words, Avenatti predicted Trump’s fate was about to lie in the hands of Cohen days in advance of the raid that has indeed initiated a tectonic shift in the forces bearing down on Trump’s presidency and, now, also the family business that bears his name. After a year of cascading stories claiming that “All roads lead to…” Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort—the Cohen prophesy now stands apart for being manifestly true.

And on Thursday of this week, Avenatti leveled another forecast while appearing on MSNBC’s Deadline:

“I do not believe this president will serve out his term—that’s how serious I think this is.”

“This” appeared to refer to Trump’s entanglement with his own client, Daniels. But let’s face it, the more tantalizing part of his declaration came before the em dash.

The commingling of the Daniels case, which is a civil proceeding, with the criminal investigation that is now advancing in the Southern District of New York, makes it sometimes difficult for non-lawyers (myself included) to track them and their relevance to each other. That legal haze was only made more murky this week by yet another civil proceeding with yet another alleged Trump mistress, who made news when she was freed from a contract that was also intended to silence her, much like Daniels.

Where the civil proceedings of Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal meet up with the criminal investigation led by federal prosecutors in New York is that the payments to them provided at least part of the impetus for authorities to search Cohen’s premises.

But the two civil cases also diverged sharply this week based on the lawyers handling them and presumably the goals of their clients. McDougal sought to be released from a contract with the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc. (AMI), that prevented her from telling her story to other outlets. AMI had originally threatened to fight McDougal’s lawsuit but, following the Cohen raid, decided settling would be the smarter move rather than going through the process of pre-trial discovery (which could have gotten sticky for Trump, Cohen, and AMI). There’s been some debate about whether McDougal got the best possible deal given the leverage she had following the Cohen raid, but ultimately she isn’t under AMI’s thumb anymore and that seemed to be her primary goal.

Daniels and her lawyer Avenatti, on the other hand, appear to be on a take-no-prisoners mission aimed straight at the Oval Office. When Daniels made an appearance this week outside the New York courthouse where Cohen and his lawyers were battling the criminal case, she put them on notice.

“For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law,” she told reporters. “He has played by a different set of rules or, should we say, no rules at all. He has never thought that the little man, or especially women—or even more, women like me—matter. That ends now,” she added, vowing that she and Avenatti would not rest until “the truth” was known to the public.

It’s clear now that Daniels isn’t just talking about her own truth. She’s been sharing a lot of that with Americans in multiple interviews. What she wants is the satisfaction of either a court ruling or a self admission from Cohen and/or Trump that they lied about their entire saga. Any money she might be awarded from her defamation suit seems to be mostly immaterial to her, as she has always claimed. And Team Daniels also certainly doesn’t have the political considerations that Team Trump does, nor is she the least bit be worried about being shamed—that ship sailed a long time ago. That makes her and her attorney, especially “dangerous,” as Avenatti put it.

“We are not going to settle this case under any circumstances that do not involve Mr. Cohen and the president coming 100 percent clean with the American people,” Avenatti said on MSNBC’s Deadline this week. “It’s never going to happen.”

Combine that freedom with the fact that Cohen’s lawyering skills are completely laughable in Avenatti’s view and you’ve got a wrecking ball in the making. Vanity Fair writes:

Avenatti says that what emboldened him to pursue this case was what he sees as Cohen’s alarming incompetence, first demonstrated by the badly drafted N.D.A. for Stormy Daniels using a third-party LLC in Delaware, Essential Consultants. It was so badly executed, Avenatti said, he understood immediately that he was dealing with a hack—Trump’s virtual Achilles’ heel. “If someone who worked for me had drafted that N.D.A., they would have been fired on the spot,” he said. “It’s a piece of garbage.”

And that “hack,” who certainly performed other backroom hack jobs for Trump, appears primed at the moment to flip on his former boss, just like Avenatti anticipated. In fact several of Trump’s close confidants warned publicly that Cohen just might go in that direction. First it was longtime Trump legal adviser Jay Goldberg who told Trump that on a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting Trump, Cohen “isn’t even a 1.” By Friday, Roger Stone and his political mentee Sam Nunberg were blabbing to the New York Times about how poorly Trump had treated Cohen through the years.

“Ironically, Michael now holds the leverage over Trump,” Nunberg said.

And here’s where the criminal investigation is exerting more heat on both Cohen and Trump than the civil cases ever could have in isolation. As Noah Feldman writes for Bloomberg:

Until now, Trump personally was in jeopardy only if special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in Washington finds evidence that he knew about collusion between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. […]Now, however, the Southern District can investigate potential Trump crimes in any area connected to Cohen.

If Trump is implicated in Cohen’s actions, the Southern District probably wouldn’t charge the president while he’s in office. Current Justice Department guidelines say that the president shouldn’t be criminally charged while in office. (Whether that’s a constitutional requirement is under dispute, and the team that investigated Bill Clinton argued that a sitting president could be criminally charged.)

But the Southern District prosecutors wouldn’t have to charge Trump. They could simply name him as an unindicted co-conspirator while charging Cohen, as a grand jury named Richard Nixon in the coverup of the Watergate burglary.

That would leave Trump with a felony charge hanging over his head that he could later be faced with once he left office. In fact, his best option at that point, as Feldman notes, might be to resign in hopes of getting a pardon from a President Mike Pence. (I apologize for exposing my readers to that thought.)

But for the moment, Trump and Cohen have few options left but to delay or end every suit they can. This week, Cohen chose to “voluntarily discontinue” two defamation suits he had filed against Buzzfeed News and Fusion GPS related to the Steele dossier. Their lawyers also tried to stall federal prosecutors from reviewing the materials seized in the FBI raid, arguing in part that a so-called “privilege team” wouldn’t properly shield documents that fall under attorney-client privilege from investigators. (That strategy hilariously also led to the courtroom bombshell that Cohen has also allegedly done legal work for Sean Hannity.) And in Daniels’ civil suit, Cohen’s lawyers sought to convince a federal judge in Los Angeles to put a temporary hold on the case because if it proceeded, it could reveal information that would implicate Cohen in the criminal proceeding.

Let’s pause here for a second to imagine what might happen if Trump and Cohen do manage to slow down the criminal investigation by getting a so-called “special master” appointed to sift through materials from the raid. By all accounts, that would slow the investigation considerably. And while that would conceivably be in a small “w” win for the pair now, the move would almost surely push the major revelations unearthed by the criminal investigation into the next election cycle: 2020. So there could well be a long-term political downside to succeeding even if there’s a short-term legal upside now.

So what’s next? In the next couple weeks, we are likely to find out whether the federal judge in the criminal case appoints a “special master” to review the seized materials or allows the “privilege team” to proceed instead.

In the civil suit, the federal judge in L.A. has told Cohen’s attorney that if they want to delay the proceeding, Cohen himself must make the claim that moving forward could endanger him in the criminal litigation.

Judge S. James Otero said Cohen needs to file a statement declaring that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination might be jeopardized if the case filed in Los Angeles goes forward.

Cohen had sought to avoid officially invoking the Fifth, so look for it early next week in case you would like to delight in that admission. He has until Wednesday to file.

Additionally, Avenatti is waiting on a ruling from Judge Otero, likely early next month, on his motion to depose both Trump and Cohen. Most people think that’s a stretch, but Avenatti doesn’t seem to think so.

“Absolutely,” he said on MSNBC. “I do think we’re going to take those depositions. We’re not going to be bought off. This is bigger than that.”

It remains to be seen whether Avenatti will get those depositions. But clearly just about everyone who thought Avenatti and Daniels were nothing more than a comical sideshow has been sorely mistaken—their case is at least partially responsible for the game-changing FBI raid that has put the fear of god in Trump.

Outside that L.A. courthouse on Friday, Avenatti made clear that Cohen himself had made a fatal misstep when he had his chance to simply release Daniels from their Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA).

“We made a settlement offer very early on where we said that my client would return the $130,000, if everyone walked away from the NDA,” Avenatti said in footage aired on MSNBC. “They refused that offer and I think ultimately that’s going to go down in history as one of the dumbest decisions made in any piece of litigation in the history of the United States.”

If that decision ultimately contributes to the early downfall of Trump, Avenatti’s statement may not be as hyperbolic as it sounds.

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  1. Main Resource: unless otherwise noted.

    Can you change a narcissist?
    It’s not that people with NPD can’t change, it’s that it often threatens their sense of personhood to try. And their failed relationships often confirm, in their minds, that narcissism is the safest way to live. Put another way, narcissists can’t be narcissistic in a vacuum.Sep 10, 2013

    What is the psychopathic Triad? (or Dark Triad)
    The dark triad is a subject in psychology that focuses on three personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Use of the term “dark” implies that people possessing these traits have malevolent qualities. … Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy.

    What is the dark triad personality trait?
    Introduction: The dark triad personality traits are three closely related yet independent personality traits that all have a somewhat malevolent connotation. The three traits are machiavellianism (a manipulative attitude), narcissism (excessive self-love), and psychopathy (lack of empathy).

    What is the dark Tetrad?
    No matter what the profession, if a boss has this personality combination, they are terrifying. The Dark Tetrad is composed of four parts: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. Sadism is the addition to the Dark Triad which has narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.Nov 13, 2015

    What is the definition of a narcissistic sociopath?
    Narcissistic Sociopath is a Bad Combination. Sociopath and psychopath are words that commonly describe antisocial personality disorder. Sometimes they’re used interchangeably, but some experts differentiate between the two. Perhaps inserting narcissism into the mix might help people decide which term to use.

    People are toys to the sociopath; to the sociopathic narcissist, they are trash. Sociopathy combined with narcissism can be extremely dangerous. Beware the narcissistic sociopath.

    Antisocial personality disorder is “a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 years”
    • Narcissistic personality disorder is “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.

    A sociopath doesn’t care if he’s benefitting anyone. Cold, calculating, and manipulative, he doesn’t think about others at all unless they can benefit him.
    A narcissist believes he’s great, that everything about him is magnificent. He knows with unwavering confidence even beyond conceit that he’s benefitting everyone around him and more (Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis).
    In reading a wide variety of literature, patterns become evident. It appears that it is a combination of these personalities that constitutes a narcissistic sociopath. Further, it’s the description of narcissistic sociopath that is the common conceptualization of the psychopath.

    The most common trait of a psychopath is their pathological lying. This is so that they can cover up their behaviour and get their own way.
    Psychopaths use glibness and superficial charm to get you hooked in the first place. Once they have you under their spell, you are more likely to be willing to help them.
    You’ll find many psychopaths in positions of great power and authority, this is due to their enormous sense of self-worth.
    It is their manipulative behaviour that probably got them into these positions in the first place.

    Traits of a Narcissistic Sociopath
    How do you spot a sociopathic narcissist? Watch for certain traits:
    • A driven quest for power. If a narcissistic sociopath cares about anything other than himself, it is destructive power and control over people.
    • Behaviors that seek love and admiration. To be sure, this isn’t needy love. It’s not even emotional love. It’s superficial. A narcissistic sociopath sees love and admiration as power tools to manipulate and dominate (Do Sociopaths Even Have Feelings?).
    • No apologies, no guilt, no remorse under any circumstance. A sociopathic narcissist believes that she is a gift to the world who makes it richer and more colorful. Therefore, her calculated, even cruel actions are always justified.
    • Invincibility. The narcissistic variety of sociopath believes he is indomitable. Even punishment and prison can’t stop him. They’re merely part of the game.
    • Wholly self-serving. The needs and wants of others are insignificant and undeserving of consideration.
    • Act as the producer, director, and only actor of his own show. The narcissistic sociopath casts people in roles that increase his power and sense of importance and when bored, casts them aside.
    M.E. Thomas is a self-proclaimed sociopath whose memoir (2013) screams narcissism throughout, writes matter-of-factly, “Ruining people is delicious.”
    Beware the narcissistic sociopath.

    What is a Machiavellian personality type?
    Machiavellianism in psychology refers to a personality trait which sees a person so focused on their own interests they will manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals. Machiavellianism is one of the traits in what is called the ‘Dark Triad’, the other two being narcissism and psychopathy.Jan 8, 2015

    Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder
    • Grandiose sense of self-importance. …
    • Lives in a fantasy world that supports their delusions of grandeur. …
    • Needs constant praise and admiration. …
    • Sense of entitlement. …
    • Exploits others without guilt or shame. …
    • Frequently demeans, intimidates, bullies, or belittles others.

    What does Machiavellian mean today?
    Someone Machiavellian is sneaky, cunning, and lacking a moral code. The word comes from the Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote the political treatise The Prince in the 1500s, that encourages “the end justifies the means” behavior, especially among politicians.
    The twenty traits on the Hare Psychopathy checklist are:
    1. pathological lying
    2. glib and superficial charm
    3. grandiose sense of self
    4. need for stimulation
    5. cunning and manipulative
    6. lack of remorse or guilt
    7. shallow emotional response
    8. callousness and lack of empathy
    9. parasitic lifestyle
    10. poor behavioral controls
    11. sexual promiscuity
    12. early behavior problems
    13. lack of realistic long-term goals
    14. impulsivity
    15. irresponsibility
    16. failure to accept responsibility
    17. many short-term marital relationships
    18. juvenile delinquency
    19. revocation of conditional release
    20. criminal versatility
    The Hare Psychopathy Checklist -Revised (PCL-R) categorizes these traits into four factors: interpersonal, emotional, lifestyle and antisocial.

    Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which there is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings.

    Can you change a narcissist?
    It’s not that people with NPD can’t change, it’s that it often threatens their sense of personhood to try. And their failed relationships often confirm, in their minds, that narcissism is the safest way to live. Put another way, narcissists can’t be narcissistic in a vacuum.Sep 10, 2013…/sociopath-causes-the-making-of-a-sociopath…

    Can a person become a psychopath?
    A child is born with the capacity to become a sociopath. … This means that someone can’t just suddenly become a sociopath later in life. There is one rare exception. Traumatic brain injury specifically to the paralimbic system can (but doesn’t always) cause someone to develop a sociopathic personality.

    Can you treat a psychopath?
    TO THE BEST of our knowledge, there is no cure for psychopathy. No pill can instill empathy, no vaccine can prevent murder in cold blood, and no amount of talk therapy can change an uncaring mind. For all intents and purposes, psychopaths are lost to the normal social world.

    What is a supply for a narcissist?
    Narcissistic supply is a concept introduced into psychoanalytic theory by Otto Fenichel in 1938, to describe a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment and essential to their self-esteem.

    Is narcissism inherited?
    The causes of NPD aren’t well understood. However, inherited genetic defects are thought to be responsible for many cases of NPD. Contributing environmental factors may include: childhood abuse or neglect.Mar 16, 2016

    Is narcissism a mental disorder?
    Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder affecting approximately 1% of the population1, with a greater prevalence in men than women. It is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, and a great need for admiration.


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