- Michael Avenatti cross-examined his former client Stormy Daniels in his high-stakes fraud trial.
- Avenatti asked her about how she once said watching him work was like “watching the Sistine Chapel painted.”
- Daniels shot back: “That’s what you told me to say.”
Stormy Daniels took the stand this week to testify against her former lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who’s accused, among other things, of stealing $300,000 from her. But in a plot twist, Avenatti himself cross-examined his former client after securing permission earlier this week to represent himself.
The cross-examination started late Thursday and continued on Friday. At one point, Avenatti asked Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, about her own public statements regarding his representation of her against then President Donald Trump and Trump’s longtime former fixer, Michael Cohen.
“Didn’t you tell the New York Times that watching me work was like watching the Sistine Chapel painted?” Avenatti asked.
“That’s what you told me to say,” Daniels shot back.
Avenatti also asked Daniels to elaborate on her interest in paranormal activity and her claim that she can talk to dead people.
“How do you speak to the dead?” Avenatti asked his former client, according to The New York Times.
“I don’t know,” Daniels said. “It just happens sometimes.”
He also grilled Daniels on other claims she’s made, including that a “dark entity” had entered her home through a “portal” a few years earlier, and that she has the ability to speak with a haunted doll named Susan.
“Susan speaks to everyone on the show; she is a character on Spooky Babes,” Daniels said, referring to a project she’s a part of whose stated purpose is investigating paranormal activity.
“Isn’t it true, Ms. Daniels, that you have claimed that you have the ability to speak to the doll and that she speaks back to you, yes or no?” Avenatti pressed, according to a transcript of Thursday’s proceedings.
“Yes,” Daniels said. “She even has her own Instagram.”
The back-and-forth is the latest twist in Avenatti’s high-stakes fraud trial, in which he’s charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
During opening arguments, federal prosecutors said Avenatti pocketed $300,000 out of Daniels’ $800,000 book advance by forging her signature on a letter to the book’s publisher.
Assistant US attorney Andrew Rohrbach said that in addition to sending the unauthorized letter, Avenatti directed Daniels’ agent to send money to his own bank account and lied to Daniels about where the money was.
When Daniels first took the stand on Thursday, the majority of her testimony zeroed in on how Avenatti had allegedly lied to her about the disappearance of the money.
But she appeared to become frustrated when her former lawyer asked her if he was respectful when he represented her against Trump.
“You lied to me, that’s not respectful,” Daniels said, according to The Wall Street Journal. But she eventually acknowledged that she told federal investigators Avenatti was in fact polite and respectful towards her.