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Flashback: CNN’S Chris Cillizza Says ‘Never Say Never’ To A Possible Avenatti Presidency

Chris White on February 14, 2020

CNN pundits Chris Cillizza and Brian Stelter once suggested attorney Michael Avenatti could become a force in American politics two years before he was found guilty of trying to extort Nike.

CNN pundits floated the possibility of Avenatti winning the Democratic nomination two years before President Donald Trump’s impeachment. That possibility was dashed after a court found the resistance warrior guilty of trying to shake down the sports apparel giant.

“But, but, but, but: I said I would never say never. So I am not saying Avenatti has a 0% chance of winning the Democratic nomination,” Cillizza wrote in a July 2018 article weighing the odds of an Avenatti presidency.

“But it can’t be much higher than that,” he wrote.

Avenatti deployed the kind of antics that helped Trump defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, Cillizza added. “Avenatti is a very new arrival on the cultural scene,” he wrote, suggesting that Avenatti’s relative newness could hurt his chances.

Other CNN pundits also suggested Avenatti had the goods to make a run.

“I don’t know that it’s a good thing that star power and TV savvy is required for the job, but I think it is,” CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Stelter told Avenatti in a 2018 interview.

He gave former President Barack Obama and Trump as examples of people who used start power to their advantage.

Stelter added: “Looking ahead to 2020, one of the reasons why I’m taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news.” Stelter also chasticized Avenatti for employing what he called “Trumpian” tactics to dismantle his conservative critics.

Such talk disappeared after the notoriously pugnacious pundit found himself in legal trouble.

Avenatti, a major opponent of the president, was charged in 2019 with threatening Nike that he would expose the massive company’s for allegedly shaking down college basketball team unless it pay him $25 million to conduct a probe.

“I’m not fucking around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games. And I don’t — you know, this isn’t complicated,” Avenatti told Nike representatives before his arrest in March 2019. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem.”

A jury found him guilty Friday on all three charges he faced stemming from the Nike incident.

Avenatti came to prominence in 2017 when he represented porn star Stormy Daniels, who sued Trump so she could discuss aspects of her alleged sexual encounters she had with him. She received $130,000 in exchange for keeping quiet about the alleged encounter.

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