Tension rose to the red hot level on the set of CNN's AC360 on Monday when CNN legal analyst Paul Callan condemned the defamation lawsuit of Stormy Daniels against President Donald Trump as a "publicity stunt." Sitting right next to Callan was Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who went absolutely ballistic over finally being challenged in one of his countless interviews on CNN (or MSNBC).
Although CNN has been spending quite a bit of time hyping the Stormy Daniels banana, the occasional contrarian Callan calmly obliterated their narrative on this occasion with a hard legal apple. Another prominent example of Callan going against the CNN anti-Trump grain was his December 30 column, Trump is right about the FBI.
The video of the encounter between the lawyers at times looked more like Avenatti was about to pull a Zell Miller and challenge Callan to a duel to a duel than a legal discussion (click "expand" below the video to see more)
ANDERSON COOPER: Tonight, there's a new lawsuit against the president over one of his tweets. The porn star Stormy Daniels is suing the president for defamation. This is separate from her lawsuit against the president's attorney Michael Cohen. The new lawsuit is over the sketch of a man who Daniel says threatened her years ago after talking about her alleged sexual encounter with the President. The President tweeted, quote, a sketch years later about a non- existent man, a total con job playing the fake news media for fools, but they know it. Joining me now is Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti, and CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan, former professor of media law at Seton Hall University. So, Michael, explain to me how you -- how -- why filed this defamation suit and how you -- how the president defamed Stormy Daniels with that tweet.
MICHAEL AVENATTI: Well, Anderson, we made it known in the day after the president sending this tweet that we were going to bring this case. We were considering whether to bring it in Los Angeles, in connection with the other lawsuit or a separate lawsuit. We decided to file it here. You know, we believe effectively that the president called my client a liar...
COOPER: By saying it's a con job?
AVENATTI: That by saying it's a con job, and effectively accused her of committing a crime, in that it's -- she maintains that she was assaulted by the side of her car, difference between assault and battery, but she was assaulted at the side of her car, and she identified this individual by way of this sketch, which took a considerable amount of time to prepare and publish. And we want to hold the president accountable for his statement.
COOPER: Paul, I mean, reading the case file, is this a provable case of defamation? Because defamation against a public figure, it's a higher bar than it is against somebody who's not, right?
Uh-oh! Stand by for the analysis that Michael Avenatti is definitely not going to like in 3, 2, 1 (click "expand" again):
PAUL CALLAN: Yes, and you know, Anderson, defamation cases -- even good defamation cases are hard to win in court, and because they're of the discovery involved in proving actual damages in the case. But this case I think is going to be extraordinarily difficult. And the defense will be that this is simply an expression of opinion by the president, which he's allowed to express and that is considered non-defamatory under defamation law.
And also because Stormy Daniels has really voluntarily become a public figure herself, you now have the additional burden that Michael will have to prove that the president acted with actual malice in making the statements that he did. And I think there's a very, very strong likelihood that this case will get tossed by a judge in early stage.
COOPER: Do you find that malice would be something hard to prove that the person that has towards Stormy Daniels?
AVENATTI: I think it probably will be hard to prove, Anderson. But two points, I mean, first of all, I've been proven hard cases my entire career and I'm confident in this one. And secondly, if the president continues to do what he's done over the last seven weeks, he's going to probably take a lot of steps to help us along the way. I mean, he's going to probably be the second best attorney for us on the case, and I'm confident that he's going to help us.
So Avenatti agreed that his defamation suit will be hard to prove and then Anderson Cooper brought up an ulterior motive for filing the lawsuit:
COOPER: There are those -- you know, I've heard some legal analysts say that because your actual lawsuit against Michael Cohen has -- there's a 90-day stay, that this is some sort of maneuver either to, you know, keep the case going in some way in just a different avenue in the state of New York.
AVENATTI: Well, I mean, that's completely bogus. It's baseless, Anderson, because like I said, two weeks ago when the tweet was made, I made it known publicly at that time that we were going to be bringing a lawsuit or a claim over this tweet. I announced it publicly. It widely spread and we were either going to bring that claim in Los Angeles or bring it as a separate matter in a separate venue.
So he basically admitted that he made it known publicly that he (and Daniels) were going to be bringing a lawsuit that they know will be ultimately going nowhere.
Callan then turns up the heat as to why Avenatti filed the lawsuit in New York.
CALLAN: But the question is, but why here in New York? The tweet was sent from Washington, D.C. by the president. Your client lives in California. It seems to me California would have been the more appropriate venue or possibly even Washington, D.C.
However, there are an awful lot of television stations here in New York, which a lot of people say that's the reason that you've decided to come to New York with the litigation.
AVENATTI: Well, if you've been paying attention, I don't have any problem getting on TV, number one. Number one, I could be on TV anywhere in the world at any given time at this point. So I don't need to file in New York to be on TV.
CALLAN: Well, it's nice to be able to walk directly into the studio in New York.
Publicity hound venues should at least be conveniently accessed. And now the tension is about to boil over with Avenatti going apoplectic that someone would suggest that he was offline:
AVENATTI: So, I'm confident that we're going to be able to put --
CALLAN: What would they be?
AVENATTI: You got to stop interrupting me.
CALLAN: Well, I'm just curious. What would the special damages be?
AVENATTI: So, all I'm asking is that you stop interrupting me. We're going to be able to prove special damages. We're going to be able to prove per se defamation...
Callan then brough up why it would be hard to convince a jury that a porn star has been defamed which really means this lawsuit is just a publicity stunt:
CALLAN: Anderson, I've tried a lot of cases through the years, all right? And as a may a matter of principle, you're probably right, somebody who's made 500 pornographic films can be defamed in theory. But you put 12 ordinary people on a jury and say to them, award her money because somebody called her a liar, I think you'd have a hard time getting a substantial damage award. Now, maybe you'd get a symbolic award, sometimes jurors say will award a dollar in damages to send a message that we won't tolerate this sort of thing, but actual damages justifying all of the effort that's gone into this lawsuit, I don't see it -- which means the lawsuit is a publicity lawsuit and a publicity stunt.
What a snowflake Avenatti was there! The fact that Avenatti couldn't stand even hearing legitimate criticism being leveled against him showed what a tough time he could have in court because bravado alone usually doesn't win you a court case. Put simply, Callan didn't waste his chance to take Avenatti on and it certainly left the porn star's attorney more than a tad bit furious.
Well, it sure is getting a lot of publicity on the Stormy Daniels Network.