Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels Launch Second Crowdfund
The porn star and her lawyer are asking America for more money to fight President Trump. But cash is harder to come by this time around.
Update: Crowdjustice.com appears to have removed the campaign referenced in this story after the Daily Beast's subsequent report that Daniels did not authorize it. A message simply said "Page not found." Representatives for the site did not immediately return a request for comment
Stormy Daniels has launched a second round of fundraising for her legal battle against President Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen.
As of Tuesday evening, her effort on Crowdjustice.com raised $4,015—a far cry from the more than $100,000 collected in one day last March, when Daniels sued Trump to invalidate the “hush agreement” she signed ahead of the 2016 election.
But the donors cheered on Daniels, and her attorney Michael Avenatti, who have remained a thorn in Trump’s side throughout most of 2018.
“Yes, you can bring this dick down. Yes, you can,” wrote one donor, Sarah, who pledged $100 toward the cause.
“Go get 'em Michael & Stormy!!!! Much love!” said Jarrod, who pledged $35.
The porn actress and her lawyer have been ubiquitous since her NDA was exposed earlier this year and she filed a lawsuit against Trump and Cohen in an effort to break her silence. Cohen, through shell company Essential Consultants, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
Avenatti, who is mulling a run for president in 2020, has vowed to put Trump under oath over his alleged role in silencing Daniels. Trump is also accused of orchestrating a payout to ex-Playmate Karen McDougal, who claims she had a 10-month love affair with Trump around the same time he allegedly bedded Daniels.
The first Crowdjustice site, which raised $587,415 from 16,862 people, was disabled on Tuesday afternoon and listed as “funded.”
Back when it launched, Daniels said the funds would pay for “attorneys' fees; out-of-pocket costs associated with the lawsuit, arbitration, and my right to speak openly; security expenses; and damages that may be awarded against me if I speak out and ultimately lose to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen.”
“I am more fortunate than many, many people in this country. And for that I am grateful. But unfortunately, I do not have the vast resources to fight Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen alone,” she wrote on the original page.
On the latest fundraising site, Daniels says she wants “to hold Donald Trump and Michael Cohen responsible for violating campaign finance laws and for their cover-up against the American people.”
“I am trying to force depositions of Trump and Cohen so they are required to testify under oath about what Trump knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it,” she added. “I want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to be known to America.”
Money raised will go to “out-of-pocket costs associated with the lawsuit; security expenses; and attorneys’ fees,” Daniels wrote.
“None of the money goes to me personally—it is all for the benefit of the case and getting to the truth,” she continued.
Avenatti told The Daily Beast that not all of the money from the first Crowdjustice effort has been spent. Asked for a breakdown of expenses, Avenatti said via email, “The money has gone toward the areas identified on the page.”
Those funds were disbursed over the last nine months, he said.
“For instance, Stormy’s security detail has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially due to the high level of death threats. The other out-of-pocket costs of the litigation are also extraordinary (and I’m not speaking of attorneys’ fees). Trump and Cohen have spent millions in their defense,” Avenatti said.
Still, Avenatti said he hasn’t “received a dime in attorneys’ fees” despite their legal team spending more than a thousand hours on the case, at a value of $1.5 million. “And no, we do not count interviews or media as attorney time,” Avenatti continued.
“Stormy does not have unlimited resources like Trump and Cohen,” Avenatti told The Daily Beast, adding that “public exposure doesn’t pay for security guards” or “protection for her family.”
The initial effort amassed nearly $250,000 in one week, prompting a Crowdjustice spokesperson to call it “one of the most successful campaigns on the platform.”
A representative for Crowdjustice told The Daily Beast that funds are disbursed to the lawyer’s client trust account on a rolling basis after the first initial target is met.
Asked whether Crowdjustice requires documentation on where and how the money is spent, a spokesperson said, “We have robust procedures in place to verify that a lawyer is engaged and all funds raised are transferred directly to that lawyer’s client trust account on behalf of the client.”
“Raising funds on CrowdJustice does not alter the attorney-client relationship,” the spokesperson added. “As such, it is for the attorney, in accordance with their client’s instructions, to determine how the funds raised are used in relation to the legal project as described on the Case Page.”
Last spring, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero ordered a stay of Daniels’ lawsuit against Trump and Cohen, pending the criminal probe into Cohen’s business activities—including the payoffs to Trump’s alleged mistresses ahead of Election Day.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to crimes including tax evasion and violating campaign finance law, saying he doled out hush money “at the direction” of President Trump.
Meanwhile, in October, Otero dismissed Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump, a ruling that Avenatti has appealed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, is seeking $341,559.50 in attorneys’ fees from Daniels—an amount Avenatti called “grossly inflated” in court papers. A hearing over the fees is scheduled for Dec. 3, records show.
Harder also filed a motion to dismiss Trump from Daniels’ hush-money lawsuit, saying her case is “moot” because Trump never signed the agreement. For his part, Cohen has filed papers seeking to rescind the NDA in exchange for the return of his $130,000.
Before their apparent about-face, lawyers for Cohen’s shell company and Trump argued that Daniels owed one or both of them $20 million—or $1 million for each instance where she allegedly breached their confidentiality agreement.
A hearing on Cohen’s and Trump’s motions to dismiss are scheduled for late January.