MIAMI (AP) — A surge of asylum-seeking families has been straining cities along the southern U.S. border for months, but now the issue is flowing into cities far from Mexico, where immigrants are being housed in an airplane hangar and rodeo fairgrounds and local authorities are struggling to keep up with the influx.
U.S. immigration officials have eyed spots in states like Florida, Michigan and New York, to help process the migrants before they move on to their destination, which could be anywhere in the U.S.
And in border states, cities that are several hours’ drive from Mexico are already seeing sometimes hundreds of migrants a day.
The situation is leaving local authorities and nonprofits with the task of providing shelter for a night or two, a few meals and travel assistance to help migrants reach their final destinations across the U.S.
The issue erupted in political intrigue last week when Democratic strongholds in Florida balked at plans to send migrants to their counties, conjuring images of homeless migrants on the streets.
But elsewhere, cities and states are quietly making arrangements. New Mexico and Colorado reached agreement to drop off some migrants in Denver. A remote desert town in California has helped hundreds reach shelters for short-term stays.
Image Credit: DC Whispers
Source: The Washington Pundit
FILE PHOTO: Tennis – ATP 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2019 Taylor Fritz of the U.S. in action during his second round match against Japan’s Kei Nishikori REUTERS/Matteo Ciambelli
May 23, 2019
American Taylor Fritz advanced to his first semifinal of the year, upsetting second-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday in Lyon, France.
The top four seeds all made the quarterfinals of the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon, but only two of them moved on.
Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, the No. 1 seed, posted a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, reversing a result from the 2017 Lyon semifinals.
Fourth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada topped the United States’ Steve Johnson 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, but third-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4) to France’s Benoit Paire.
Fritz, a 21-year-old California native ranked 46th in the world, is still looking for his first career ATP Tour title. He hit 16 aces against Bautista Agut without a double fault.
Fritz will oppose Paire in the semifinals while Auger-Aliassime will square off with Basilashvili.
Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva
Top-seeded German Alexander Zverev saved a set point in the first set, then went on to pull out a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dellien served for the opening set at 5-3 and was up 40-30 before Zverev began a rally that saw him take that game and the next three. Zverev wound up winning the match in 2 hours, 24 minutes.
Next up for Zverev is Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, who defeated Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (5), 7-5.
The other semifinal will feature fifth-seeded Radu Albot of Moldova, who beat Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 7-5, and Nicolas Jarry of Chile, who eliminated Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-1, 7-5.
–Field Level Media
Sen. Lindsey Graham said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that President Trump wants to be impeached is nonsense.
“When she says the president wants to be impeached. I don’t buy that. When she says her caucus is not divided. I don’t buy that. She’s either delusional or misrepresenting where her caucus really is,” the South Carolina Republican told reporters on Thursday.
Lindsey Graham: “When she [Nancy Pelosi] says the President wants to be impeached. I don’t buy that. When she says her caucus is not divided. I don’t buy that. She’s either delusional or misrepresenting where her caucus really is.” pic.twitter.com/BW0kyOR8fB
— Jason Donner (@jason_donner) May 23, 2019
Pelosi said Trump abruptly walked out of a White House meeting Wednesday on infrastructure because he was frustrated Democrats were not planning to impeach him. “The White House is just crying out for impeachment,” the California Democrat said during a press conference. “That’s why he flipped yesterday.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., told MSNBC this week that 80% to 90% of the House Judiciary Committee Democrats are ready to begin an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Graham said this shows Democrats are “hell-bent” on impeaching Trump regardless of what leadership says.
Americans aren’t having babies like they used to. In fact, the U.S. birthrate fell to a 32-year low last year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some young people say having kids is irresponsible due to political or climate concerns. (“In this economy?!”) This argument against having kids has been made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who said it was “legitimate” to question whether having kids is a good idea when climate change will soon end us all.
But beside the fact that “the world is going to hell in a handbasket” is a timeless and very bad excuse for not having kids, the United States actually needs more children. The national rate of 3,788,235 births in 2018 isn’t enough to replace the aging labor force.
“It’s a national problem,” Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California, told NPR. Considering most economic standards, birth rates should be rising, he said. Instead, young people seem to be feeling crippled by high childcare costs and political concerns. How can they bring a new person into an unstable world?
In his recent TED Talk, “The Case for Having Kids,” writer and father Wajahat Ali makes several arguments for having children. The global fertility rate has halved over the past 50 years, he said. And people cite climate change, overpopulation, and resource scarcity as reasons not to have kids. Yet, “despite all this chaos, I still think we should have babies,” Ali said. “I believe we can and should fight for the earth and humanity side by side.”
We don’t want to end up like Japan, where the country has become so desperate for young residents that it paid couples to create them, and even that incentive didn’t really work.
“We need to invest in babies in developed countries if we want to help save our economy and pensions,” Ali said. “But that’s not the reason you have babies. That’s not the main reason. Babies have always represented humanity’s best, boldest, most beautiful, infinite possibilities.”
There are plenty of reasons not to have kids, but political concern is generally not one of them. Our economy needs more children, and our excuses to the contrary say more about us than about what our kids will actually experience.
The U.S. birthrate has been dropping since the ’80s, but that doesn’t mean the trend has to continue. Now is as good a time as ever to have children.
FILE PHOTO: A new apartment building housing construction site is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
May 23, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell from near an 11-1/2-year high in April as prices rebounded, but demand for housing remains underpinned by declining mortgage rates and a strengthening labor market.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday new home sales dropped 6.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 673,000 units last month. March’s sales pace was revised up to 723,000 units, the highest level since October 2007, from the previously reported 692,000 units.
April’s decline followed three straight monthly increases
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for about 10% of housing market sales, would decrease 2.8% to a pace of 675,000 units in April.
Sales increased 7.0% from a year ago. The median new house price increased 8.8% from a year ago to $342,200 in April, the highest level since December 2017.
New home sales had in recent months outperformed other housing market indicators, including building permits, which had dropped for five straight months in April. New home sales are drawn from permits.
Economists attributed the recent strength in new home sales to declining mortgage rates. The new housing market has not been severely constrained by an inventory shortage, which has crippled sales of previously owned homes.
A report on Tuesday showed existing home sales fell for a second straight month in April, weighed down by a chronic shortage of more affordable houses.
The overall housing market hit a soft patch year and has contracted for five straight quarters. With the 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropping to around 4.07% from near an eight-year high of 4.94% in November, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the housing market.
New home sales in the South, which accounts for the bulk of transactions, declined 7.3% in April. Sales in the Midwest dropped 7.4% and those in the West tumbled 8.3%. But sales in the Northeast jumped 11.5%.
There were 332,000 new homes on the market last month, down 0.9% from March. While builders have stepped up construction of more affordable homes to meet strong demand in this market segment, land and labor shortages remain a challenge.
At April’s sales pace it would take 5.9 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, up from 5.6 months in March.
About two-thirds of the houses sold last month were either under construction or yet to be built.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao)
Police from the Alhambra and West Covina Police Departments arrested Manuel Gallardo, 55, of Apple Valley and Daniel Gonzalez, 21, of Ontario, California. The arrests came during a raid on an Apple Valley auto body repair shop on May 15. The rais also resulted in the discovery of 500 pounds of methamphetamine, the seizure of 11 firearms, $38,000 dollars, and 40 grams of fentanyl. The raid grew out of a two-month multi-agency drug investigation.
Officials said both suspects are believed to be members of a Sinaloa Cartel-connected U.S.-based drug ring. The two men are charged with possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell, transport for sale purposes, and possession of methamphetamine while in possession of a firearm. Apple Valley is located in the Victor Valley of San Bernardino County — approximately 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California.
Image Credit: Alhambra Police Department
Source: The Washington Pundit
WASHINGTON (AP) — A dozen times, Rep. Ayanna Pressley asked the witness for a yes or no answer on housing policy.
Not once did Ben Carson, President Donald Trump’s housing secretary, give her one. Instead, he mocked her: “Yes or no, can you ask me some questions yourself and stop reading?” Other times, he repeated: “You already know the answer.”
“I know the answer,” snapped Pressley. “Do YOU know the answer?”
It was a smaller pop in the epic struggle over who’s in charge in Washington these days, reflecting the dynamics crackling high and low across the battlefield of divided American government. Meeting by meeting, questions of competence, generational change, #MeToo politics, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and the 2020 elections are animating the fight for power. Even as Trump and his top Cabinet officials refuse to cooperate with congressional investigations, there is evidence that newly empowered Democrats are slowly — sometimes messily — resetting the balance after Trump’s first two years in office under Republican congressional control.
This week alone, a selection of skirmishes big and small played out in public, including a Trump-size explosion by noon on Wednesday. In the span of three hours: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi jabbed at him, telling reporters that “the president is engaged in a cover-up,” repeating for emphasis, “a cover-up” — and breezily added that she was due at the White House for a meeting on infrastructure.
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On his turf, Trump blew up that gathering in under three minutes, refusing to shake anyone’s hand or take a seat. He announced he could not do such a deal “under the circumstances” of “phony investigations” — and stalked out. Pelosi then I-told-ya-so’d to the people still in the Cabinet Room: “I knew the president was not serious about infrastructure and would find a way out,” according to a Democratic aide.
“For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part … he took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that. In any event I pray for the president of the United States,” Pelosi, going on with her day, said later.
It was the latest sass she’d aimed at Trump after questioning his manhood, clapping and smirking at him at the State of the Union speech and, before that, forcing him to reopen the government without the money he demanded for his border wall.
“Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers, I know you truly mean it!” Trump tweeted from the White House.
It’s more than a public shoving match between septuagenarians at the pinnacle of American government. The spectacle Wednesday took attention away from dissention among Pelosi’s Democratic ranks over what some say looks like a march toward impeachment proceedings against Trump. But more broadly, it’s part of an ongoing tug-of-war for public perception about who has political power now and who should wield it after the 2020 presidential and congressional elections.
In hearing by hearing, across the warren of Capitol Hill, a new generation of House Democrats, including a record number of women, are transforming what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin last month called “this relationship” between the administration and, in his case, the House Financial Services Committee. There, Mnuchin tried to goad Rep. Maxine Waters, the panel’s first African American chairman, into banging her “gravel” and dismissing him. In a widely shared video, she told him not to tell her how to run the panel.
Mnuchin was back in the witness chair before her panel on Wednesday saying he has no idea who wrote a confidential IRS memo that says, according to The Washington Post, Trump’s tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president asserts executive privilege. Mnuchin said he believes he was following the law when he refused to turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns.
A day earlier, Waters’ committee also was a class in oversight for Carson, and a chance for Democrats to question the former neurosurgeon’s qualifications to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Freshman Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, lawyer and expert in foreclosure law, asked Carson whether he knew the housing term “REO.” Carson seemed to think she was referring to a popular chocolate sandwich cookie.
“An Oreo?” Carson asked.
“No, not an Oreo,” Porter said. She spelled it back for him and asked again.
Carson replied, “Real estate,” and hesitated.
“What’s the ‘O’ stand for?” Porter pressed.
Carson said, “Organization.”
“Owned,” Porter corrected him. “Real estate owned.” She explained that the term, obscure to most anyone but housing experts, refers to what happens when a property goes to foreclosure.
Later, Carson later sent Porter and a family-size box of double-stuffed Oreos. She countered, “What I’m really looking for is answers.”
His exchange with another woman on the committee — Pressley — grew especially sharp.
“It pains me that your gifted hands and mine are doing the bidding and carrying the water of what I believe is one of the most morally bankrupt presidents in our nation’s history,” Pressley, Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman, began.
Quickly though, she demanded yes or no answers, “reclaiming” her time when he refused. When she pressed, he parried, “Reclaiming my time.”
“You don’t get to do that,” Pressley said.
Waters dropped the gavel. “The time belongs to the lady.”
Follow Kellman on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman .
FILE PHOTO: New bollard-style U.S.-Mexico border fencing is seen in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, U.S., March 5, 2019. Picture taken March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson – RC1FD8531B60/File Photo
May 23, 2019
By Andrew Hay
TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – Two more New Mexico counties have declared their opposition to taking in migrants in a growing revolt against federal authorities dropping off a surge in Central American families in the state’s rural, southern communities.
The record influx of asylum seekers has overwhelmed border detention facilities and shelters, forcing U.S. immigration authorities to bus migrants to nearby cities and even fly them to California.
Las Cruces, New Mexico, has received over 6,000 migrants since April 12. Deming, population 14,183, gets 300 to 500 a day, according to City Administrator Aaron Sera.
Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has dismissed President Donald Trump’s claims of a border security crisis and advocated a humanitarian response. She is in Washington seeking federal funds to reimburse cities that give support.
But some New Mexico counties say they want nothing to do with sheltering migrants, with officials saying the governor’s approach may worsen the border crisis.
Sierra County, population 11,116, was one of two Republican-controlled New Mexico counties to pass resolutions on Tuesday evening opposing the relocation of migrants to their communities.
Sierra County also called on Trump to close the border to immigration to end the crisis.
“We have to take care of our veterans, our seniors, our residents, first and foremost,” said County Manager Bruce Swingle. “We’re a very impoverished county.”
Sierra County has a median annual household income of $29,690 and a 21 percent poverty rate, according to Data USA.
To the east, Lincoln County passed a resolution that it was not prepared to spend taxpayer dollars on housing “illegal immigrants,” said Commissioner Tom Stewart.
“We have a tight budget and need to focus on a new hospital that we are building,” Stewart said. “As long as we continue to extend citizen benefits to unregistered aliens the flows will continue.”
The moves followed a similar May 2 resolution by neighboring Otero County.
County Commission Chairman Couy Griffin said sheltering migrants sent the wrong message to other Central Americans thinking of leaving their homes and would deepen the border crisis.
“If you begin to feed pigeons in the parking lot, pretty soon you have every pigeon in town,” Griffin said.
Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said there was no evidence humanitarian aid encouraged people to leave their homes.
“They are moving because they have no other choice and its frankly un-American to suggest we close our doors to people in need,” he said.
The border situation is taking a tragic toll on the migrants themselves. On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees unaccompanied child migrants, said a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died in its custody in September, bringing to six the number of children who have died in U.S. custody, or shortly after release, in the last eight months.
(Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
No one knew Avenatti’s rage cycle better than Miniutti, a model who moved to the United States from a little town in Estonia on a gap year after high school. She ran into Avenatti in October 2017 at Cecconi’s in Hollywood. She was 23 at the time and out with a girlfriend when the lawyer, then 46, approached her and asked her to have dinner with him. After a few weeks, she was essentially moved into a luxury high-rise in Century City. They traveled in Europe for a few weeks in November and he offered to pay her rent and about a thousand dollars in spending money each month. (Avenatti said that his financial support far exceeded that amount.) He didn’t want her to work, she told me, sitting in her attorney Michael Bachner’s Manhattan office in early April, within spitting distance of the Charging Bull sculpture down past Wall Street. She turned up in ripped black jeans and dainty silver rings on five of her fingers. She had a mess of blonde hair pulled back by the black sunglasses she kept on her head for much of two hours and Jessica Rabbit lips that quivered as she detailed what she called a year of verbal, psychological, and physical abuse. Avenatti has denied ever physically harming anyone. “Any allegation that I have ever been physical with a woman is complete nonsense,” he told me. By the spring, months into their dating, she told him she was thinking about getting a waitressing job. “I wanted to be more social and earn some money to pay my credit card, but he said, ‘Mareli, really? Do you realize who you’re dating? I could be the next president of the United States. We could celebrate my 50th birthday in the White House. You can’t be a waitress.’ ” (Another woman Avenatti was romantically involved with also told me that Avenatti had asked her if she wanted to be First Lady.) Avenatti denied telling Miniutti that she could not wait tables. He said that he’d perhaps joked with a few women about being First Lady—but many more had approached him asking if they could have the role.
Miniutti rarely knew which Michael she would wake up to, she said. “He has two extremely different personalities,” she explained. “One was this very powerful guy. I saw people who would shake his hand. They respected him. … I was so proud of him [when he first started representing Stormy].” The other, she said, was “very aggressive.” By the summer, when his schedule was busy enough that they would only have a few days together at a time, his temper flared. On their way to dinner one evening, when she opened up to him about an eating disorder she struggled with and started to cry, he turned the car around and told her that she was “fucking the whole night up” by bringing it up on their one night out together, that she was “a fucking idiot to start crying and making drama” on their way out for a nice night. “It was my fault at the end of everything,” she told me. “That was just something I got used to. He would yell at me for bringing something up by asking if that’s really how I wanted to spend what little time we had together. I wanted to be a supportive partner, so I let it slide off … but I felt really scared when I would see one side of him, then the other, within a half-hour period. Up and down, up and down.”
It was not until February, four months into their dating, that she said he became physically abusive. It was his birthday, and he had wanted to spend the night before going out with a friend who was in town. She went out separately with her friends, and when Avenatti returned to his apartment and saw that she was not yet home, he texted her, asking where she was. She said she told him that she would be home in an hour. When she got there, she said she could tell that he was drunk. She had been drinking, too, and he laid into her. “He was upset that I could be so disrespectful and selfish, on his birthday. If he texts me that he’s home, he told me that I should come right away and that that’s how relationships work.” She had gotten into bed before he jumped up and started yelling at her to “get the fuck out. Get the fuck out” of the apartment. “I don’t want you here tonight,” he told her. When she got up to leave, she said, he literally threw her out the door into the hallway, where she hit her head on the wall. “I made excuses after that,” she said. “The excuse that time was that we were both drunk and emotional, and I really did not believe that he would do something like that again.”
He did, though, she said. By early November, she had maxed out her credit card. She’d bought him a $500 limited-edition Yves Saint Laurent cologne (it “smelled so sexy,” she said) for their anniversary, though, she says, he had not gotten her anything. She had asked him for money because her accounts were overdrawn and she didn’t have enough cash to order food or put gas in her car. He had put $2,000 in her account on November 13, just before she went to work on set for a Snoop Dogg music video. It hadn’t yet cleared, so she had to ask one of the other girls to pay for her gas in order to get home at the end of the day. She took a shower, put on a T-shirt and underwear, and got into bed. In a letter to the district attorney’s office Avenatti’s lawyers sent last fall, he claimed that she had been drinking and doing drugs on set, a claim she denied. He also said that she had recently started taking Accutane, an acne medication he said could cause emotional distress. She said she had only been taking the drug for two days and had no problem with it whatsoever.
She was drained by the time Avenatti got home from drinks with a friend, but she told him she thought she needed to work more. She had been embarrassed having to ask for gas money, and she never wanted to feel that way again. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, she said, and he looked her right in the eye. “Goddammit,” she said he yelled, mimicking how he stood up in the bedroom as we sat in her lawyer’s office. “You motherfucking ungrateful bitch.” She went to the guest bedroom. He followed, she said. “Get the fuck out,” she recalled him saying. “You’re just ungrateful and disrespectful.” She started to text a friend to see if she could sleep there that night instead when he grabbed her phone. He put his hands on her shoulders, she said, and tried to force her out of the apartment. Her arms were slick from body oil after the shower and he couldn’t quite grip her. She saw that the window was open and started screaming for help, she says, when he got hold of one of her arms and dragged her first across the carpet and then across a hardwood floor. He opened the door and flung her into the hallway. “I was so shocked and shaking that I couldn’t even stand up. I reached up to ring the doorbell for the apartment across the hallway and he saw me. ‘Are you fucking insane?’ he said.” He pulled her back inside and she warned him that if he did not give her phone back and let her go, she would count to three and start screaming. She started to panic when he didn’t budge. “That’s when I really started to freak and I asked him to please not come any closer.” His demeanor immediately changed, she said. “He said, ‘Baby, come here. We’re so much better than this.’ I can’t even describe that moment and what his eyes looked like. Like a psychopath. All I could think was, He is going to hurt you.” She made her way to the guest bedroom, put on pants, and made a break for the door. The elevator did not come fast enough, she said, so she walked toward the service elevators, where she knew there were cameras. He got in with her, pleading with her to not do this. She went down to the security desk in the lobby, where the attendants ultimately called the police.
Avenatti was arrested around two P.M. the following day. He was released on $50,000 bail and spoke briefly to reporters.
In a statement released by his law office that day, Avenatti said that the allegations against him were “completely bogus,” adding, “I have never been physically abusive in my life nor was I last night. Any accusations to the contrary are fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation. I look forward to being fully exonerated.”
The arrest was only one of Avenatti’s Waterloos that fall. He’d launched another publicity war, this one against Brett Kavanaugh in the midst of his confirmation hearings. But then his client, Julie Swetnick, backtracked on or contradicted portions of a sworn statement she’d given to Congress alleging she witnessed the future Supreme Court nominee getting girls drunk so he and his friends could gang-rape them at a party. In early October, Swetnick did an interview with NBC News, at which Avenatti was present and instructing his client, in which she contradicted her sworn statement. The F.B.I., in its curt investigation into various allegations made about Kavanaugh’s conduct, declined to interview Swetnick, and in her consequential final vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Maine senator Susan Collins cited Swetnick and Avenatti’s conduct as a reason why she doubted the validity of the claims against him and ultimately voted in his favor. It was a shift in the way the public viewed Avenatti, though he told me that Collins is the biggest fraud in the Senate and that neither he nor Swetnick changed a single vote. He said that he stands by her and her allegations.
Then a federal judge dismissed Daniels’s defamation case against Trump and ordered her to pay his legal fees. Avenatti told me that the judgment was what Daniels had been after all along, since it ruled that she was permitted to get out of the N.D.A.: “She described the case as a win after.” A week later, a different judge in California ordered him to pay $4.85 million to a former law partner. The same day, his firm was evicted from its office in a Newport Beach building for allegedly failing to pay rent for the past four months. Three days later, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley referred Avenatti and Swetnick to the Department of Justice for a criminal probe, alleging that they made “materially false statements” to Grassley’s committee as it investigated the allegations, though nothing has since come of this referral. At the beginning of December, Avenatti officially took his hat out of the ring for his short-lived presidential bid. “I do not make this decision lightly—I make it out of respect for my family,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter. “But for their concerns, I would run.”
“In the United States of America, we don’t convict people based on press conferences or indictments,” Avenatti said to me in the glass tower on Santa Monica, without a hint of irony. This from a man who held a handful of press conferences outside Manhattan courthouses after Michael Cohen appeared for a status conference, despite the fact that Avenatti had been denied a request to officially intervene in the case against Cohen. “We usually require prosecutors to present evidence and facts and, depending on the strength of that evidence and those facts, then we either convict or acquit people.”
But Avenatti wouldn’t go into details. All he would say was that he had not done anything illegal. He said there were things he regretted and would do differently, though he would not elaborate on what those things were. He did admit that there were all kinds of worries keeping him up at night. “I’m facing some very serious charges that could result in me spending a long time in a federal prison, and that’s most certainly keeping me up. I’m facing the power of the federal government, which is enormous.” In a follow-up interview in May, Avenatti told me that had he not taken on Trump, he doesn’t believe he would have been charged at all. “The government didn’t begin to look at charging me criminally until I became one of the biggest threats, if not the biggest threat, to the president of the United States, and anyone who thinks differently is a fool,” he said.
He recognized, too, that he’s in those crosshairs by his own design—like Trump, he has a sense of his own drama. “The good news is that I’m incredibly fearless. The bad news is that I’m incredibly fearless,” he said. “In racing, you have to have a certain level of fearlessness to be able to drive on the edge and succeed, but you can’t have so much fearlessness that you are reckless and approach things with reckless abandonment, because otherwise, you end up crashing and potentially killing yourself. That’s a very, very fine line. It’s a razor’s edge.”
For Avenatti, it was always about the edge, getting as close to it as he’d let himself. That’s why he raced cars and went into trial law and probably why he allegedly thought he could get away with not paying taxes and maneuvering client money around, as prosecutors outlined. “Before every closing argument I’ve ever given, right before I get into it, I’ve gone into the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror and taken myself back to a particular moment of growing up. The same moment. Because I’ve been nervous or any time when I’m fearful or nervous, I take myself back to that moment.”
Avenatti says he lived a perfectly normal childhood in a middle-class family. His dad was an executive at Anheuser-Busch before he got laid off when Avenatti was in his late teens. He would not go into what that particular moment was when he was 12. He would only say that he “grew up very, very fast, and I faced some challenges that molded me into who I am and instilled a certain toughness and a certain fearlessness that has stayed with me and in the fabric of who I am.” That toughness, he said, was born out of necessity. Miniutti, in explaining why she feels some sadness for Avenatti, despite how he treated her, said that she thought his need to be fearless stemmed from an incident when he was around that age. Two people told me that the fear stemmed from concern that he would be taken away from his family.
In April, Avenatti started telling me what he told himself in the mirror before every trial. But his voice broke. For a good 10 seconds, he couldn’t manage a word. “I feel like this is Jerry Maguire, you know, when Cuba Gooding Jr. is on set and says, ‘I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.’ ” He laughed and drained a plastic cup of water. Miniutti would later tell me that Avenatti cried, often, particularly when she was upset with him after he got hotheaded and she would want to sleep elsewhere, or in front of her friends who were skeptical of him. “It was his way of manipulation,” she told me. “Or maybe that was the realest Michael I’d ever seen. He could be like a little puppy dog. Or, maybe, he’s just not mentally O.K.” The other woman whom he was romantically involved with told me a similar story. “He could cry on command,” she said. “He’s a narcissist and narcissists can always cry on demand.”
Regardless, in his glass tower, the emotions overflowed. “I take myself back to that moment when I was 12. I realize at that moment that what I’m fearful of, and what I’m about to go do, is nothing compared to that moment of fear. I drew on that before I decided to sue the president of the United States, and I’ve drawn on that repeatedly over the last 12 months, and I’m confident that, unfortunately, I’m going to have to draw on that over the next few months and beyond.”
One person who interviewed Avenatti a number of times over the last year explained that his working theory was that Avenatti was a guy who’d been on the run from a series of burning bridges for a while. “There’s the great expression—patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I’ve always felt like running for president was his last option,” he said. “He didn’t have anywhere else to go. He was totally trapped, so he thought maybe I can get around the fray.”
I asked him repeatedly to square why he would have made a decision to get into such a public life at the same time his private life was unraveling—if he wanted to get caught or punish himself or test the limits. Avenatti’s explanation was that he didn’t see this case rising to the level of attention that it had. Perhaps that is the only way someone with his baggage would have entered the arena in such a spectacularly public way. “I never imagined that this case would take on the magnitude that it did and would have thrust me into the spotlight and into the national spotlight like it did,” he said. “I have said many, many times over the last year, this is either going to end really, really well, or really, really badly. I am most fearful of the fact that the rate of descent is greater than the rate of ascent. Some would argue at this point that I flew too close to the sun. As I sit here today, yes, absolutely, I know I did. No question. Icarus.”
There was a point, he said, when he was living out of a hotel in New York, where he would wake up every day and want to pinch himself because he couldn’t believe what was happening. He was getting to sit across from Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper and talk to millions of people. He got to speak at the Wing Ding, a Democratic fund-raiser in Iowa, to what he saw as a crowd blown away by his performance. The publicity he got for Daniels’s case kept the campaign-finance violations in the news, which did significant damage to Trump and people in his orbit. “I couldn’t believe how unbelievably great everything was,” he got out before his voice started to catch again. “Now, there are days when I can’t believe what a nightmare this is.”
I asked what it was like on those days. What did he do. “Chin up,” he said. “Keep your feet moving. As soon as you put your head down or your feet stop moving, they tackle you.”
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