Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti has been gradually building a national profile for himself, repeatedly criticizing President Trump and the Republicans who enable his toxic agenda at a time when Americans are hungry for someone to stand up to Trump.
Avenatti has proven to be a media brawler, not unlike Trump himself, and knows how to generate press and push a message. Already, there are rumors that Avenatti might pursue a 2020 presidential bid, this despite his lack of government experience.
Now, Avenatti has penned an Op-Ed for The New York Times in which he advocates for Trump’s indictment. He explains that it’s yet to be established whether or not a sitting president can be indicted, but that it’s crucial the country makes this determination soon and “clarify the issue.”
“Provided there is sufficient evidence to support an indictment of President Trump — and there are many indications that there is — the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, and prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, who are investigating payments to my client, Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal, should present their evidence to grand juries. Those jurors, citizens of our communities, should then determine whether the evidence supports an indictment of Mr. Trump,” Avenatti writes.
Avenatti goes on to argue that it makes no sense for Trump to be above the law. If average Americans can be indicted for crimes, so can their elected leader. If indicted, Trump would be able to avail himself of all the legal apparatuses that normal citizens use to combat indictments but shouldn’t receive special treatment.
The attorney then pivoted to tackle another line of defense that pro-Trump proxies use to argue against indictment. They claim that indicting Trump would make it difficult for him to properly run the country he was elected to lead. Avenatti argues that Trump is already failing to lead the country.
“Some also argue that indicting the president would critically impair his ability to lead the country. But this is a White House already engulfed in chaos and daily distractions. And if the House were to initiate impeachment proceedings, it is hard to see how that process would be any less distracting than a criminal indictment,” he writes.
The Op-Ed then briefly sketches out the jurisprudential history of the question around presidential indictments, giving a useful crash course for those unschooled in the relatively arcane precedents. At one point, Avenatti quotes Ronald Rotunda, who was involved in Kenneth Starr’s investigation into President Clinton.
“It is proper, constitutional and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties. In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law,” Rotunda wrote in 1998.
Ultimately, prosecutors must be “blind” to Trump’s office when considering indictment, Avenatti argues. In fact, the case for indicting Trump is much stronger than the one against Clinton, because the investigation relates directly to how Trump won the 2016 election.
Avenatti ends his Op-Ed by arguing that if Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, he must recuse himself from any possible indictment decision against Trump due to the obvious conflict of interest and Kavanaugh’s past, fringe arguments for presidential immunity.
Avenatti’s arguments are strong, and nobody who believes in the foundations of our democracy, in the idea that “all men are created equal” can genuinely argue that the president should be immune to the consequences of criminality.