Michael Avenatti, the attorney and cable news star who once harbored presidential ambitions, conceded in an interview with Vanity Fair that he “flew too close to the sun” as he ascended to celebrity before crashing back to earth under the weight of federal criminal charges.
Avenatti first rose to prominence on the national political stage as the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who claimed to have had a one-night sexual affair with President Donald Trump. The Southern California-based attorney quickly became one of the president’s chief antagonists, legally pursuing him and longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen and criticizing both regularly on television.
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Avenatti’s popularity grew to the point where he openly flirted with joining the 2020 Democratic primary for president, making trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. But his star soon fell after he was accused last November of domestic abuse — prosecutors decided not to pursue felony charges — and arrested by the FBI and charged with embezzlement, wire, bank and bankruptcy fraud as well as tax-related charges.
Avenatti has denied all of the allegations against him.
“I have said many, many times over the last year, this is either going to end really, really well, or really, really badly. I am most fearful of the fact that the rate of descent is greater than the rate of ascent,” Avenatti told Vanity Fair. “Some would argue at this point that I flew too close to the sun. As I sit here today, yes, absolutely, I know I did. No question. Icarus.”
The Vanity Fair piece goes on to detail Avenatti’s personal life — a messy divorce, a failing coffee business — that was spiraling as his public persona gained traction. Avenatti called the article a “complete hit piece” and a “new low for VF,” accusing the magazine of being deceptive in its reporting on him.
A spokesperson for Vanity Fair did not immediately return a request for comment.
As his political ambitions fizzled, Avenatti remained in the spotlight by representing clients tied to high-profile cases, including allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and R&B singer R. Kelly. But his national profile has diminished — along with his appearances on cable news — as the criminal charges against him have piled up.
“I couldn’t believe how unbelievably great everything was,” Avenatti told Vanity Fair. “Now, there are days when I can’t believe what a nightmare this is.”
Avenatti’s arrest in March came after he allegedly threatened sportswear giant Nike with the release of evidence it had paid high school basketball players unless it paid him to conduct an independent investigation, or a larger sum to drop the matter entirely. Federal prosecutors in New York called Avenatti’s threats “an old-fashioned shakedown.”
On Tuesday, Avenatti tweeted he expects to be indicted for his March Nike arrest, but said he intends on “fighting these bogus/legally baseless allegations, and will plead not guilty to ALL CHARGES,” and that he looks “forward to the trial where I can begin to clear my name.”