Stormy Daniels news – Michael Avenatti begins cross-examination of porn star in his own fraud trial

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Stormy Daniels testified today in a Manhattan court against her former lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is alleged to have swindled her out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mr Avenatti has said he will question her for “six hours”, but the judge seemed unimpressed by the suggestion.

His cross-examination of Ms Daniels began just ten minutes before the end of Thursday’s proceedings. Mr Avenatti took over representation of himself from his legal team on Tuesday, saying it is “the best chance at winning” the case.

The California lawyer is accused of stealing $300,000 of the money Ms Daniels was owed for her autobiography. He is charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Mr Avenatti became well known nationally in 2018 as he represented Ms Daniels in lawsuits against Donald Trump. He was briefly something of a hero for many anti-Trumpers, but come 2020 he began a spectacular fall from grace that saw him sentenced to jail for trying to extort Nike out of millions of dollars.

Key points

  • Avenatti files motion to examine Luke Janklow and Stormy Daniels

  • Witness says Avenatti ‘wanted to go big’ on Daniels’ encounter with Trump

  • Sean Macias said Avenatti wanted to represent porn star for a dollar

07:16 , Shweta Sharma

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the Michael Avenatti trial in Manhattan for Thursday, 27 January.

Witness says Avenatti ‘wanted to go big’ on Daniels’ encounter with Trump

07:42 , Shweta Sharma

Giving a colourful testimony on Wednesday, Sean Ernesto Macias said Avenatti “wanted to go big” with an appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes” over Daniels’ wish to go public about her sexual tryst with Donald Trump.

“He told her: ‘I’ll charge you a dollar,’” Macias recalled.

He referred to Avenatti as “handsome fellow with the shaved head”, but at one point said he “feels bad for him in a weird way”.

He said Avenatti gave him a Cartier watch in 2018 when prosecutor, Mathew Podolsky, asked Macias if Avenatti thanked him for introducing him to Daniels.

Stormy Daniels' testimony was postposed to stop 'irrelevant' evidence

08:29 , Shweta Sharma

Stormy Daniels was due to take the stand on Wednesday and the former lawyer Michael Avenatti was to cross-examine her himself.

But Daniels’ testimony was postponed due to “irrelevant” evidence after prosecution presented a motion to deny certain evidence from Avenatti’s questioning.

“The Government respectfully submits this letter to request that the Court preclude certain Defense Exhibits and cross-examination of Stephanie Clifford, a/k/a ‘Stormy Daniels,’ on particular topics because they are irrelevant and their probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice,” the prosecution wrote in a letter to the judge.

The evidence would include the porn star’s financial statements, checks and payment of back taxes.

Avenatti files motion to examine Luke Janklow and Stormy Daniels

08:51 , Shweta Sharma

Michael Avenatti filed a quantum meruit argument on Thursday night against his limits on examining Daniels and agent Luke Janklow, the president and managing director at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, a literary agency that represented Daniels.

The letter cites case law, saying its purpose is “the law’s disgust for unjust enrichment” and says it supports his argument.

Sean Macias said Avenatti wanted to represent porn star for a dollar

09:02 , Shweta Sharma

Michael Avenatti jumped at the chance to represent porn star Stormy Daniels in 2018, saying he’d do it for a dollar, another California attorney testified Wednesday at Avenatti’s criminal trial.

The testimony by the lawyer, Sean Ernesto Macias, was expected to set the stage for Daniels to take the witness stand on Thursday at Avenatti’s criminal trial.

Read full report below:

Lawyer: Avenatti said he'd represent porn star for a dollar

What is Avenatti’s $94m case against the US

09:30 , Shweta Sharma

Along with the trial now underway in New York, Michael Avenatti is fighting a very different legal battle: a lawsuit he’s brought against the US government over his treatement in jail.

Mr Avenatti is suing the government for $94m, claiming $1m in compensation for each day he says he was held in 24-hour solitary confinement or lockdown. According to his lawyers, he was treated very differently from other prisoners and was only allowed one book to read: Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal.

Jade Bremner has the story:

Michael Avenatti sues for $94m claiming he’s been tormented by Trump’s book in jail

Anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti’s feud with Stormy Daniels goes to trial: What happened?

10:00 , Shweta Sharma

The relationship between Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti seemed to be solid in the spring of 2018 when they appeared outside a Manhattan court hearing concerning raids at the home and office of Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer.

Mr Avenatti started considering running for president after becoming popular as an outspoken critic of Mr Trump on cable news.

Read the full report here:

Anti-Trump lawyer Avenatti’s feud with Stormy Daniels goes to trial: What happened?

Why is Avenatti representing himself?

10:40 , Andrew Naughtie

While he is a lawyer, Avenatti’s decision to fire his own defence team is both unusual and risky. He initially asked to defend himself during a court session on Tuesday, but was told to sit down, the judge saying “I’m not going to waste the jury’s time.”

He advised the disbarred Avenatti to stick with his “exceptionally good lawyers”, but the defendant stuck to his guns.

Read more:

Avenatti to cross-examine Stormy Daniels at his own trial after ditching legal team

Catch up: How Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti fell out

11:19 , Andrew Naughtie

Ms Daniels’s relationship with her sometime lawyer seemed as strong as anything in the heady days of 2018, when they arrived at a Manhattan court hearing about raids on the home of ex-Trump laywer Michael Cohen. But since then, things have deteriorated to an incredible low – and not just because of Avenatti’s various legal catastrophes.

Read up on the saga here:

Once allies, Stormy Daniels and Avenatti face off at trial

Michael Cohen shares podcast interview with Stormy Daniels

12:00 , Andrew Naughtie

Michael Cohen, the former Trump attorney who facilitated the payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels after her affair with Donald Trump, has previously interviewed Ms Daniels on his podcast, Mea Culpa. He and Avenatti share a bitter personal enmity, and he later made peace with Ms Daniels as she pursued justice against the former president and her own former lawyer.

As Ms Daniels prepares to testify in the Avenatti trial, Mr Cohen has shared a new conversation with her in which they discuss the accusations against Avenatti, the country’s “post-traumatic Trump disorder”, and Ms Daniels’s diagnosis of the state of politics today.

Listen below...

The book at the centre of the Avenatti-Daniels case

12:36 , Andrew Naughtie

The court proceedings now underway revolve around Avenatti’s alleged theft of some $300,000 in money Ms Daniels was due for her 2018 book Full Disclosure, which told the story of how she ended up in the middle of the Trump story.

Here’s our deep dive into the book from when it was first released:

Here are all the highlights from Stormy Daniels' bombshell book about her alleged affair with Trump

Stormy Daniels: 'I hope Trump sees a doctor'

13:00 , Andrew Naughtie

In the interview Michael Cohen has shared on his podcast today, Ms Daniels discussed her thoughts on Trump running for re-election in 2024.

“He’s a monster,” she said. “He’ll do and say anything...I will say that I hate to cut him any slack whatsoever, it pains me, but the conversations I had with him back in 2006 are very different than listening to him speak today. I really hope that he sees a doctor. He was obnoxious and an asshole and all those things, but the conversations at least were complete sentences and actual words. It seems he’s losing some of his faculties.”

The exchange starts at around 55 minutes in.

Avenatti submits document arguing merits of cross-examining Daniels

13:47 , Harriet Sinclair

Michael Avenatti has submitted a document to Judge Jesse Furman arguing in support of examining witnesses Stephanie Clifford (known as Stormy Daniels) and Luke Janklow.

His document comes after Daniels submitted documents arguing she should not be questioned about “irrelevant” topics, such as her financial statements and back taxes.

Read Avenatti’s submission in full here.

When will Stormy Daniels appear in court?

14:15 , Andrew Naughtie

Law & Crime’s Adam Klasfeld reports that Ms Daniels will take the stand later today. According to Avenatti, he intends to cross-examine her for six hours...

First up, however, is Sean Ernesto Macias, who will be finishing the testimony he began yesterday – an appearance in which he testified that Avenatti offered to represent Ms Daniels for just $1.

Avenatti in good spirits...

14:35 , Andrew Naughtie

It seems Stormy Daniels’s former lawyer-turned-nemesis is feeling upbeat ahead of today’s proceedings...

15:00 , Andrew Naughtie

Reporter Meghann Cunniff writes that among the various matters Avenatti is trying to introduce into the trial is an alleged hush money payment made to suppress a video that would have cast Ms Daniels in an unflattering light:

Forensic phone evidence raised at trial

15:16 , Andrew Naughtie

The prosecution have called an expert witness to testify about text message exchanges between Avenatti and Ms Daniels.

Catch up: how did we get here?

15:48 , Andrew Naughtie

As we wait for Stormy Daniels to take the stand in the trial of her onetime ally and lawyer, here’s a piece explaining what the trial is all about.

Once allies, Stormy Daniels and Avenatti face off at trial

Avenatti asks witness to roleplay his exchanges with Daniels

16:07 , Andrew Naughtie

Avenatti is having the prosecution’s forensic witness play the part of Stormy Daniels as the two read through the text exchanges that have been submitted in evidence.

Stormy Daniels takes the stand

16:12 , Andrew Naughtie

The government has finally summoned the trial’s core witness to give her testimony.

Stormy Daniels takes the stand

16:12 , Andrew Naughtie

The government has finally summoned the trial’s core witness to give her testimony.

The questioning begins...

16:18 , Andrew Naughtie

Ms Daniels’s testimony kicks off with questions about her stage name, her beliefs in paranormal activity, and her reasons for firing Avenatti:

When Daniels met Avenatti

16:29 , Andrew Naughtie

Stormy Daniels is testifying about her early dealings with Michael Avenatti:

The Avenatti-Daniels contract

16:35 , Andrew Naughtie

Adam Klasfeld has the story on the contract between Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti that’s at the core of her case against him.

Court goes into recess

16:40 , Andrew Naughtie

The trial has broken for lunch. Expect more updates soon...

Catch up: today’s events so far

17:15 , Andrew Naughtie

As we wait for the court to return from lunch, The Independent’s Bevan Hurley has this update on today’s proceedings:

Stormy Daniels accused Michael Avenatti of theft and dishonesty over the proceeds of a book publishing deal as she took the witness stand in her former attorney’s trial on Thursday.

“I hired another attorney because he stole from me and lied to me,” Ms Daniels said during an opening salvo under questioning from the prosecution.

Mr Avenatti is on trial in Manhattan for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges over claims he stole nearly $300,000 from a $800,000 advance paid to Ms Daniels for her 2018 book Full Disclosure.

Ms Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, said she was introduced to Mr Avenatti by another attorney as she wanted to inquire about breaking a non-disclosure agreement with former president Donald Trump.

Ms Daniels has maintained the had sexual tryst with the former president, which he has denied.

She and Mr Avenatti met at the Waldorf-Astoria in BeverlyHills in February 2018, and signed an attorney-client agreement over lunch the next day.

Ms Daniels said she paid Mr Avenatti an initial fee of $100 and agreed that he would set up a crowdfunded defence fund to raise funds for their case.

Ms Daniels said the fund brought in $650,000, and Avenatti maintained control over it.

Avenatti is expected to cross-examine Ms Daniels after lunch.

Daniels returns

17:20 , Andrew Naughtie

Stormy Daniels has come back to the witness box.

Daniels questioned about book contract

17:35 , Oliver O'Connell

Stormy Daniels’ book ‘Full Disclosure’ (SDNY)
Stormy Daniels’ book ‘Full Disclosure’ (SDNY)

Stormy Daniels is being asked about her book, Full Disclosure.

She is presented with her publishing contract and asked if Mr Avenatti told her he would take some of the advance for himself. Ms Daniels says he did not.

Asked about her reaction to the contract, she recalls being very excited with her friends and took a picture of it.

She says she then sent the picture to Mr Avenatti because he asked her to do so and she did not have access to a scanner.

Asked why she didn’t ask him to sign the contract for her, she laughs and replies that she signs all of her own contracts.

Daniels says Avenatti said he wouldn’t take cut from book advance

17:41 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Daniels says she spent 10 years working on the book and once she had finished and received the advance she was smiling so much she texted Mr Avenatti: “I can’t feel my face”.

Mr Avenatti texted back that the pair made a good team.

She was making a commercial for an adult film company at the time and called the defendant. She testifies that he called her and American hero and said that he would never take a penny from her for the book because she was “courageous”, had “earned it”, and “deserved it”.

Daniels reiterates she understood there would be no cut for Avenatti from book deal

17:44 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Daniels reads her engagement letter from Janklow & Nesbit detailing their engagement for her then-untitled memoir, dated April 13, 2018.

She testifies that Luke Janklow was supposed to get a 15 per cent cut. Ms Daniels is again asked why she didn’t have Mr Avenatti sign the engagement letter, and again, amused, she says because she can sign her own name.

AUSA Robert Benjamin Sobelman asks her what she understood Mr Avenatti’s split of the money she made from the book would be, she responds: “Nothing.”

The missing second payment

17:59 , Oliver O'Connell

After being paid her book advance in April 2018, Ms Daniels worked with a ghost writer named Kevin, who had been recommended to her by St Martin’s. The book was finished in July.

Ms Daniels says Mr Avenatti told her a second payment had not been sent.

A text message from September 2018 is read by Ms Daniels to the court: “I did not get paid today. I am not f***ing happy. They are in breach of contract by about four weeks.”

Ms Daniels has set up a second bank account due to problems with her husband and some funds being set aside for production and wanted to keep the book money separate.

Daniels says Avenatti said nothing about third payment

18:08 , Oliver O'Connell

A new exhibit is introduced to the court — a cashier’s check sent to Mr Avenatti’s office.

Ms Daniels says she was “confused and annoyed” that it had been sent there, to which she says the defendant responded: “At least we got it”.

She claims he offered to deposit the check for her.

When asked what Mr Avenatti said anything about having received a third payment from the publisher, Ms Daniels replied that he did not say anything to her.

18:11 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Daniels texted Mr Avenatti on 29 October 2018 saying that the payment would be one week late the following day.

He responded that “they are on it”.

She testifies that she did not know then that he already had the payment.

18:21 , Oliver O'Connell

In another text exchange from 20 November 2018, Ms Daniels asked for an update on the payments for her book, and Mr Avenatti said he was on the case.

She testifies that he told her they were being difficult, and he may have to write them a letter.

'My dragons’

18:30 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Daniels called her security guards her “dragons” and paid them $26,00 which was to be paid back by Mr Avenatti from the legal defence fund.

She enquired about the reimbursement and how much was left in the fund.

Ms Daniels is asked where in the messages submitted as evidence Mr Avenatti told her she was supposed to pay for her “dragons” herself.

Flashback: Stormy Daniels promotes her book on ‘The View'

18:35 , Oliver O'Connell

‘I’m tired of finding s*** out on Twitter’

18:41 , Oliver O'Connell

Direct examination continues with Ms Daniels explaining how she learned that Mr Avenatti had set up a second legal defence fund through text messages sent between them.

Ms Daniels explains that she was asking about a second legal defence fund Mr Avenatti had set up and that she knew nothing about.

“My email and social media were blowing up with people asking me if I was broke,” she said.

After posting about it on Twitter, Mr Avenatti texted her that attacking him put her in a bind.

Ms Daniels says she texted him back on 29 November 2018 and asked if her was threatening her, adding that checks have bounced and: “I’m tired of finding s*** out on Twitter. I’m not a liar. You have balls of steel. I will always respect you. But I have not been paid.”

18:45 , Oliver O'Connell

Mr Avenatti claimed to have sent a letter about the payment seeming to repair the relationship.

He asked her to tweet: “Now that Michael and I have sorted everything out and we know the accounting is on the up and up, we are going to kick ass together on two coasts tomorrow. #TeamStormy.”

She did so, adding a curse word.

“Had to add a curse word so no one would be suspicious,” she said explaining with a laugh that her fans knew she had a “potty mouth”.

18:52 , Oliver O'Connell

Asked if she knew whether Mr Avenatti had sent a letter to the publisher about payment, Ms Daniels responds that she had no way to know.

She asked him when the publisher would cough up the money and said she would blast them publicly if they did not.

Ms Daniels also said she was going to fire Luke Janklow asking why she should pay someone a 15 per cent cut and not have them respond to you.

The prosecution asks if the defendant ever told her that he had told both Mr Janklow and the publisher not to contact her. Mr Avenatti objects but is overruled.

She says that she told Michael that she was going to send a certified letter to the publisher as she was trapped in a house with her ex until she gets paid.

19:00 , Oliver O'Connell

From Ms Daniels’ testimony it appears that Mr Avenatti was trying to make excuses as to why she had not seen her third payment from the publisher.

Nevertheless she continued her pursuit of the payment with the trial being shown that she sent the defendant her banking information on 4 February 2019.

‘Hell, no’

19:14 , Oliver O'Connell

With the third payment four months late and the fourth payment due in February 2019, Ms Daniels testifies that Mr Avenatti said the publisher was offering to pay both but as a smaller amount.

He asked whether she would be open to that and she refused, saying: “Hell, no.”


19:18 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Daniels told Avenatti that she was going to do an interview in which she would say that authors should not do business with MacMillan. She also told him that reporters were asking why his office was seized.

He claimed it was his old firm and not the one working on her case. He wanted her to tell the press it was a big “nothing-burger”.

Ms Daniels sent a message to the publisher’s rep on 13 February 2019: “This is Stormy Daniels. I am very confused why I have not been paid per my contract with your company. I’ve been lied to repeatedly about this and want to hear directly from you when I will be receiving my check.”

19:23 , Oliver O'Connell

On Valentine’s Day of 2019, Stormy Daniels texted Mr Avenatti: “Now. Find my f***ing money.”

“Word!!!!!” he replied.

Ms Daniels says she took that number of exclamation points to mean: “Affirmative. Very affirmative.”

‘He lied to me every day for five months'

19:33 , Oliver O'Connell

Communication then stopped between the pair. Ms Daniels testified she learned from the publisher that Mr Avenatti was lying and that he had a trust account with her name on it.

“He had lied to me every day for five months,” she said.

Ms Daniels wrote to him on 19 February: “I didn’t even know you had a trust account with my name on it.”

She says Mr Avenatti responded: “Let me find out if we even received this payment.”

Asked where he wrote that he had received and spent this payment, Ms Daniels replies: “Nowhere.”

19:36 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Daniels says that she eventually received proof of the banking transfers to Mr Avenatti from the literary agent and sent the screenshots to him.

Adam Klasfeld reports Ms Daniels described it as a “mic drop” moment.

She says she wanted to send the message: “I’m tired of your lies. Just stop. Come clean.”

How the contract payment were structured

19:45 , Oliver O'Connell

According to prosecutors this is how the payments from the publishers were broken down.

Prosecution evidence showing how payments were structured from the contract for Stormy Daniels’ book ‘Full Disclosure’ (SDNY)
Prosecution evidence showing how payments were structured from the contract for Stormy Daniels’ book ‘Full Disclosure’ (SDNY)

'I don’t know if there’s a word stronger than furious'

19:50 , Oliver O'Connell

Prosecutors ask Ms Daniels what reaction she had upon learning that her payment had in fact been sent early?

“I don’t know if there’s a word stronger than furious, but that would be it.”

She is asked if before she found out he was lying to her, she was responsive to the defendant?

Ms Daniels says they spoke almost daily and then he wrote her a letter saying that he had to decided to terminate representing her.

She says that she was never paid the third installment for her book.

Daniels asked about comments she made about Avenatti

19:54 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Daniels is asked about comments she made that she hoped Mr Avenatti would be “raped in prison”. She confirms she said those words but says she did not actually want that to happen to him.

Asked why she said it she replies: “I felt violated.”

Avenatti begins cross-examination

19:58 , Oliver O'Connell

Mr Avenatti begins his cross-examination of Ms Daniels.

He asked if she has a single message that says he would not take any money from your book deal. She replies that she does not.

Mr Avenatti then asked how he was supposed to get paid for all of the work that he and his law firm did for her over the course of a year?

She replies that his payment was to come from the legal defence fund and winnings against Donald Trump.

He also asks if he ever told her he would work for her for one dollar. She says that no he did not.

20:05 , Oliver O'Connell

Mr Avenatti asks if everything in her book is 100 per cent true to which she answers yes. He asks whether her statements on Twitter are also to which she also replies yes.

“You have claimed that you have a perfect memory, haven’t you — and that you can see and speak to dead people, haven’t you?” he says.

Ms Daniels answers affirmatively before Mr Avenatti asks if she speaks to a haunted doll.

She answers yes and that the doll speaks to everyone and has her own Instagram account.

Judge Furman strikes the reference to the Instagram account.

Trial adjourns for the day

20:15 , Oliver O'Connell

Judge Furman dismisses the jury noting that he is keeping an eye on Storm Kenan which is heading towards the New York area.

“I am monitoring the weather forecast, it will probably be ok for everyone to get home tomorrow. See you tomorrow morning.”

Avenatti prosecutors try to block ‘irrelevant’ questions about Trump case

20:51 , Oliver O'Connell

Michael Avenatti intends to quiz Stormy Daniels about her lawsuit against former president Donald Trump in a bid to confuse the jury in his own fraud case, prosecutors have claimed.

Bevan Hurley reports.

Avenatti prosecutors try to block ‘irrelevant’ Stormy Daniels questions about Trump

Avenatti knocks ex-Trump lawyer Cohen with crude remark

21:21 , Oliver O'Connell

Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to Donald Trump who admitted to paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to cover up her affair with the former president, attended the start of the trial of Ms Daniels’s own ex-lawyer, Michael Avenatti on Monday.

Mr Avenatti stands accused of defrauding Ms Daniels out of a book advance totalling some $300,000. His former client is expected to testify against him; he has insisted he is innocent of the alleged crimes, which include wire fraud and identity theft.

Andrew Naughtie reports.

Avenatti knocks Michael Cohen with crude remark at his own fraud trial

Stormy Daniels and Avenatti: Once allies, now adversaries

21:50 , Oliver O'Connell

Stormy Daniels the porn star who catapulted herself and Michael Avenatti to fame with lawsuits against former President Donald Trump now has a starring role in court against her one-time ally.

Once allies, Stormy Daniels and Avenatti face off at trial

ICYMI: Avenatti representing himself

21:59 , Oliver O'Connell

Michael Avenatti is cross-examining Stormy Daniels at his own trial after ditching his legal team.

Mr Avenatti, who represented Ms Daniels when she sued former President Donald Trump, dismissed his public defenders in court on Tuesday.

He is now representing himself against the charges that he pocketed cash meant for Ms Daniels.

Gustaf Kilander reports.

Avenatti to cross-examine Stormy Daniels at his own trial after ditching legal team

Today in court in quotes

22:05 , Oliver O'Connell

“At any point, did you and the defendant ever agree that the defendant would get any portion of a book or media opportunity?” Assistant US Attorney Robert Benjamin Sobelman asked Ms Daniels.

“No.” she replied.


On Valentine’s Day 2019, she texted Mr Avenatti: “Now. Find my f***ing money.”

“Word!!!!!” Mr Avenatti replied.


“I don’t know if there’s a word stronger than furious, but that would be it — and shock,” said Ms Daniels when asked to describe how she felt after discovering Mr Avenatti’s alleged theft.

“He lied to me every day for almost five months.”

22:12 , Oliver O'Connell

Stormy Daniels testifying on the witness stand, at right, points to Michael Avenatti, standing at centre, as Judge Jesse Furman presides on the bench (AP)
Stormy Daniels testifying on the witness stand, at right, points to Michael Avenatti, standing at centre, as Judge Jesse Furman presides on the bench (AP)

22:20 , Oliver O'Connell

That’s all from our live coverage of the Michael Avenatti trial for today.

Do join us tomorrow for all the latest from court and stay tuned to The Independent for breaking news and analysis from across the world.