Earlier this month, Avenatti was indicted on 36 counts including charges of fraud, perjury and embezzlement. Among the allegations: an attempt to extort $20 million from sports apparel giant Nike, telling the company he would “ride off into the sunset” if the money was paid.
“Did I say we’d ride off into the sunset? Yes. Was it in the context Nike and the government alleges? Absolutely night,” Avenatti said Friday. “What happened was that Nike and their attorneys figured out that they couldn’t buy me, they couldn’t own me, they couldn’t control me. “
He denied he had ever attempted to extort money from Nike.
Avenatti told CNN that he “immediately saw it as an opportunity to do collateral damage” to President Trump when he was hired by porn star Stormy Daniels, who wanted out of a hush agreement regarding an alleged affair with the president. He insists he “accomplished the goal, although not entirely.”
He blasted the three-year prison sentence of Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, saying it wasn’t “strong enough” and said Trump “should be indicted.” Avenatti himself is facing 300 years behind bars.
Avenatti told CNN he’s “not at liberty” to talk about charges that he withheld a $4 million settlement from a paraplegic man, but he did defend his “lavish lifestyle,” including a $2.5 million private jet he allegedly bought using another client’s money.
“I had an interest in a private jet, but there’s nothing unusual about some of these factors related to my lifestyle. Have I had a privileged lifestyle? Of course,” Avenatti defended himself. “Have I had a lifestyle some people would describe as lavish at times? Yes. I’m a self-made guy. I put myself through college. I put myself through law school. Nothing was ever handed to me. … I’ve busted my a-- for a lot of what I’ve received.”
When pressed whether he bought the private jet with money that belonged to a client, he told CNN that he would present “facts and evidence” to a jury and they’ll decide.
“My lawyers didn’t even want me to sit down for this interview,” he continued. “The problem is I’ve been told to say absolutely nothing and I’ve said, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.”
Joseph A. Wulfsohn is a media reporter for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @JosephWulfsohn.