(Bloomberg) -- California lawyer Michael Avenatti gained a national profile in 2018 by asking Americans to believe that his client Stormy Daniels had an affair with Donald Trump. Now his freedom hinges on convincing a jury that the pornographic film actor is a liar.
Avenatti, 50, is on trial for allegedly stealing $300,000 from Daniels by intercepting advance payments in a book deal she struck while suing Trump. Daniels, the government’s star witness, appeared in Manhattan federal court on Friday for a second day of testimony.
Striding into the courtroom Friday morning, Avenatti said, “It’s going to be a great day.”
He has added to the drama of the criminal case this week by ditching his public defender and representing himself. That set him up to cross-examine Daniels, once his friend and biggest client.
As he started his cross-examination Friday, Avenatti asked Daniels dozens of questions about her claims starting in March 2019 -- in interviews, podcasts and episodes of her “Spooky Babes” paranormal television show -- to have such abilities, like seeing poltergeists, speaking to dead people and having the power to see inside people’s homes.
“You’re not suggesting you can actually stand outside someone’s home and see what’s going on, are you?” Avenatti asked her.
“I don’t know how it works,” she responded. “That’s why we have the show.”
Read More: Trump Foes Turn on Each Other in New Avenatti Criminal Trial
The face-off marked a strange turnabout for a lawyer-client team who shot to prominence with their claims against Trump.
Avenatti has signaled he’ll question Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, for as long as six hours about the details of their 2018 contract, as well as her expectations about how he would be reimbursed for his work beyond the token $100 she paid him to take her case. The judge hasn’t decided yet on whether he’ll give Avenatti that much time.
Daniels’s lawsuit against Trump sought to nullify a nondisclosure agreement she signed with him to keep quiet about the alleged affair. Trump has denied any sexual relationship with her.
In court, Daniels agreed with Avenatti that their contract called for him to control whatever proceeds he could raise from a legal defense fund in her name, plus a percentage of any financial “winnings against Donald Trump.”
No such gains were ever secured, and Daniels was instead ordered to pay Trump almost $300,000 in legal fees after her separate defamation suit against him backfired.
The case is U.S. v. Avenatti, 1:19-cr-00374, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Read More: Trump Foe Stormy Daniels Now Targets Avenatti at Fraud Trial
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