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  • Paul Steinhauser

Avenatti unfazed by attacks as he mulls White House run

Los Angeles-based attorney and potential Democratic presidential contender Michael Avenatti visits the Rockingham Democrats headquarters in Exeter on Monday. [Paul Steinhauser/Seacoastonline]

EXETER -- Michael Avenatti says when it comes to his potential bid for president, Republicans and even some Democrats are starting to take aim at him.

As the high profile Los Angeles-based attorney and potential Democratic presidential contender was in New Hampshire Monday, a judge in California ordered Avenatti to pay $4.85 million to an attorney who worked at his former law firm. The ruling held Avenatti personally liable in a lawsuit over back pay.

“We are going to appeal it. I think the judgment’s going to be thrown out. There are some significant problems with the judgment,” Avenatti said confidently in an interview with Seacoastonline at the Rockingham Democrats headquarters, which is located in Exeter.

“More importantly this attorney owes me and my firm over $12 million. So even if you deduct the $4.8 to $5 million from it, the result is we’re going to get a check for over $7 million,” Avenatti added.

And he highlighted that “what I do find interesting is the long knives are out as it relates to coming after me from people on the right and some establishment Democrats and I think it just goes to show you that some people see me as a considerable threat and they should.”

And Avenatti downplayed a new article by The Daily Beast titled “Michael Avenatti Lived the High Life While Owing Millions to IRS.”

Asked about the article, he quickly answered that “The Daily Beast article is complete garbage and I wasn’t even permitted an opportunity to comment on 75 percent of things in the article. And look, I’m happy to compare my finances and the way that I’ve led my life to that of Donald Trump any day of the week.”

Avenatti grabbed national exposure this past year representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against the president and who became a very frequent guest on CNN and MSNBC. Last month he represented one of the three women to publicly accuse now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Avenatti was interviewed after speaking with and taking questions from Democratic activists phone banking at the county party headquarters. His quick trip to New Hampshire was his third since August to the state that traditionally holds the first primary in the race for the White House.

Candidly, he told the activists that in a Democratic presidential nomination field that could eventually include more than 20 candidates, “I’m not the best qualified. I readily admit it. I’m not the most experienced. I’m not the deepest on policy positions.”

But he said he thinks he’s one of only a few potential Democratic White House hopefuls who could beat Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

“I’m not saying I’m the only one, but I think I’m on a short list in this particular moment in time with this particular opponent,” Avenatti explained.

And he had a message for the activists: “What I would ask is in 2020 when it comes time to pick the nominee on the Democratic side for the presidency, that you pick the person who has the best shot of beating Donald Trump, not the person in your heart that you would think would make the best president.”

To emphasize that winning is more important than experience, Avenatti said that in Hillary Clinton, “the Democrats nominated the person who was most qualified in the history of the United States for the office of the presidency.”

“But guess what,” he added. “She never got chance to govern because she wasn’t able to beat Donald Trump in the electoral college.”

In his interview, Avenatti said that he’s hearing that “people want a fighter. They recognize the need for someone different in order to defeat Donald Trump. They recognize that you’re not going to be able to beat him with a traditional politician.”

Asked about his timetable to decide on a campaign for president, he said “I think that you have the ability to make a decision between now and let’s say January or February of next year. Maybe even March.”

And signaling which way he may be leaning, Avenatti added “I’ve been very encouraged, pleasantly surprised, at the degree of enthusiasm about my potential candidacy.”

After his stop in Exeter, Avenatti held meetings with Rockingham Democrats chairman Larry Drake and later with New Hampshire Young Democrats president Lucas Meyer.