The domestic-violence arrest of lawyer Michael Avenatti took a strange turn Thursday when he appeared to suggest that Trump troll Jacob Wohl was behind the arrest—which Wohl denied even though his investigation firm seemed to take credit for it in a tweet.
“First Mueller and now me,” Avenatti tweeted, referring to Wohl’s disastrous attempt to smear special counsel Robert Mueller with bogus sexual misconduct allegations last month. “When we are fully exonerated, I am coming for you Jacob Wohl aka Surefire.”
Avenatti did not elaborate, but shortly after his arrest, Wohl’s Surefire Intelligence had retweeted the news with the comment: “Surefire Intelligence strikes again.”
Wohl did not respond to requests for comment but told NBC News that Surefire had nothing to do with the matter and an unnamed “associate” sent the tweet.
He claimed he was reporting “Avenatti’s criminal threats” to law enforcement. “Coming from a guy who is on bail for a violent felony, it’s quite unnerving,” Wohl said.
The bizarre back-and-forth added further intrigue to a legal drama that has been murky from the very start. Even Avenatti’s most famous client, adult-film star Stormy Daniels, said she wasn’t sure what to think.
“These are serious and obviously very troubling allegations, but right now that is all they are: allegations,” Daniels said in a statement.
“We should all reserve judgment until the investigation—an investigation Michael has said he welcomes—is complete, and that’s what I’m going to do. But of course I do not condone violence against women and if these allegations prove true I will be seeking new representation.”
Avenatti shot to fame by representing Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump over a hush-money deal to conceal an alleged affair. But the combative attorney has since branched out, taking on a woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, and making noise about running for president in 2020.
On Wednesday night, TMZ broke the news that Avenatti had been arrested for allegedly beating up a woman, reporting that the victim was one of his two ex-wives, Lisa Storie-Avenatti.
While Storie-Avenatti had a bitter split with Avenatti, she quickly put out a statement saying TMZ’s report was not true and that “there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone.”
Avenatti’s first wife also released a statement, calling him “a loving kind father” and “a very good man.”
“I've known Michael for the last 26 years,” Christine Avenatti-Carlin told BuzzFeed News. “We met when he was 21 years old and we were married for 13 years. Michael has always been a loving kind father to our two daughters and husband. He has never been abusive to me or anyone else. He is a very good man.”
The LAPD said only that it had booked Avenatti on suspicion of felony domestic violence and released no further information about the alleged victim or what happened. The Los Angeles Times, quoting a law enforcement official, reported the allegation came from a woman with "visible injuries," including bruises.
In a press conference after he was released on $50,000 bond, and on Twitter, Avenatti said the allegation was phony.
“I want to be clear: I DID NOT commit domestic violence nor have I ever committed domestic violence,” he tweeted. “I did not strike any woman nor have I ever. I did not strike my ex-wife in the face nor did I hit anyone else in the face. I am a decent man & I look forward to being exonerated.”
In its original report, TMZ said that Avenatti allegedly had an altercation Wednesday at the apartment building in Century City, where a woman ran from the building and yelled into her cellphone, “I can’t believe you did this to me. I’m going to get a restraining order against you.”
Avenatti reportedly chased after her and screamed, “She hit me first.” The lawyer was also heard saying, “This is bullshit, this is fucking bullshit,” according to TMZ. The site reports that the alleged incident occurred after Avenatti kicked the woman out of the apartment.
In light of the arrest, Vermont Democrats canceled several events with Avenatti slated for this weekend. “We have not heard from his people, but while there is some kind of arrest and investigation to ensue, we’re not going to step into that arena with him." R. Christopher Di Mezzo, the party’s communications director, told the Burlington Free Press.
As The Daily Beast has reported, Avenatti has also faced scrutiny of his finances, including debts to the IRS and details from his divorce proceeding of a lavish lifestyle that included multimillion-dollar homes, travel on private jets and a collection of exotic cars.