GREENFIELD, N.H. – Michael Avenatti took aim at President Donald Trump and called on Democrats to “fight fire with fire” as he headlined a Democratic Party event Sunday in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House.
The Los Angeles-based attorney, best known for representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against the president, told Fox News and other news organizations that “I’m absolutely being serious” as he mulls a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And his message to other potential Democratic White House hopefuls is that the 2020 “election is going to be a brutal, knockdown, street fight, and if someone’s not up for that type of campaign, they need to stay home and not seek the nomination.”
He also brushed aside any concerns that his law firm’s legal issues could hurt him politically.
Headlining the Hillsborough County Democrats summer picnic and fundraiser, Avenatti repeatedly fired away at the president, saying to big applause that “Donald Trump does not have the knowledge, wisdom, compassion or fortitude to serve as president of the United States.”
But he added that “this president, no matter how corrupt or cruel he is, he knows how to fight.”
Avenatti said that Democrats “have a tendency to bring nail clippers to a gunfight” and he told the crowd of party officials, candidates and activists, “I believe that our party, the Democratic Party, must be a party that fights fire with fire. I believe we cannot be the party of turning the other cheek.”
And as he did during a stop last weekend in Iowa – the state that holds the first-in-the-nation caucus – Avenatti modified a slogan made famous by former first lady Michelle Obama, urging that “when they (Republicans) go low, we hit harder.”
He closed his nearly 25-minute speech with a variation of Trump’s signature campaign line, saying, “We will make America gracious again. We will make America fair again. We will make America dynamic again. We will make America respected. And above all else, we will make America America again.”
Avenatti arrived in New Hampshire from Florida, where he headlined a Democratic Party event in Tampa Saturday night. He told reporters he’s headed back to Iowa in a few days and announced he’d return to New Hampshire in late September.
I don’t think [President Trump is] very quick on his feet. I don’t think he’s that intelligent and I think he’d be completely outclassed.
Pushing back against charges that his political testing of the waters is a publicity stunt, Avenatti argued, “I’m not going to go out and do this and give speeches like this and talk to people on some lark. I’m going to seriously consider this because the 2020 election is a critical election, I would venture to say the most critical in modern times.”
Avenatti warned, “If the Democratic Party proceeds to nominate the person who would be the best president, that is going to be a mistake.”
He said 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton “was the most qualified individual to ever run for the White House in the history of our nation.”
But he added that “all the experience in the world, all the qualifications in the world, all of the policy positions in the world, they don’t mean anything if you can’t beat Donald Trump in the general election, period.”
Asked how he would take the fight to the president, a confident Avenatti claimed, “Donald Trump doesn’t want to debate me on a national stage. That’s for sure. There’s no question about that.”
“I think he’s a bully and I think he doesn’t like people who punch back and I think I’d be incredibly effective against him,” Avenatti added. “I don’t think he’s very quick on his feet. I don’t think he’s that intelligent and I think he’d be completely outclassed.”
Avenatti’s firm Eagan Avenatti was settling a case with the Internal Revenue Service over $880,000 in unpaid payroll taxes. The firm had defaulted on millions of dollars in debt and had fallen years behind in paying its payroll taxes.
Asked by Fox News if he was concerned his firm’s legal issues could affect his hopes of running for the White House, Avenatti said, “I’m not worried about it. Show me anybody who’s had great success and I’ll show you somebody that’s had great challenges.”
On policy, Avenatti told the crowd that as president, he’d push for Medicare for all, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, and what he called “sensible gun control in America,” adding, “We should never have another school shooting on U.S. soil.”
He also called for investing in public school teachers and securing the nation’s borders “while at the same time honoring the values and principles that founded this country.”