Michael Avenatti says he's 'exploring a run' for president

(Zach Boyden-Holme/The Des Moines Register via AP)
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Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing adult film star Stormy Daniels, said in an interview Thursday that he is "exploring a run for the presidency of the United States." Avenatti is visiting Iowa this week and is scheduled to speak at the Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser Friday night. Potential presidential candidates often appear at the dinner to gauge support for a possible run.

"I would never think to come to Iowa in order to use the state or the people of the state to raise my profile," Avenatti, 47, told The Des Moines Register. "And obviously if I do this, then I intend to work hard and I know that ultimately the trust of the citizens of Iowa is going to have to be earned."

Avenatti has entertained the possibility of running for president before, tweeting in July that he would mount a bid against President Trump "only if I think that there is no other candidate in the race that has a REAL chance at beating him."

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Avenatti represents Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in several legal actions against Mr. Trump and his associates, including a defamation suit against the president. Clifford was paid $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election by then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with the president a decade earlier, which Mr. Trump has denied. She is suing to invalidate the terms of a nondisclosure agreement.

Avenatti has become a ubiquitous presence on cable news, quickly making a name for himself as an outspoken critic of the president. In his interview with the Register, Avenatti suggested that his combative personality would make him a strong presidential candidate.

"I think there's a huge appetite within the party for a fighter," he said. "I think the party has yearned for a fighter — a fighter for good, if you will — for a significant period of time. And for many, I'm probably seen as that individual."

However, the attorney also acknowledged that his cable news persona had likely caused people to dismiss him as a potential candidate.

"I would like to think people would take me seriously," he said. "And I think, hopefully, the message that I deliver tomorrow night will be well received by Iowa Democrats."

Avenatti is also scheduled to speak at a gathering of the Iowa Democratic Elected Officials Association later in August.