Including, just this month, The Washington Post. Phew! I was beginning to feel left out. (That was a joke, Congressman; please do not sue me.)
To be specific, Nunes has sued:
McClatchy. CNN. Hearst Magazines. Fusion GPS. Republican strategist Liz Mair. A watchdog group, Campaign for Accountability. An organic fruit farmer who called Nunes a “fake farmer.” Twitter. A parody Twitter account called “Devin Nunes’ Mom.” A fictitious bovine on Twitter called “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” (“Like Devin Nunes’ Mom, Devin Nunes’ Cow engaged in a defamation campaign,” he alleged in court.)
Nunes has, through his lawyer, also sent a menacing legal letter to a Fresno County, Calif., deputy district attorney who previously ran against Nunes to cease his support for “the @DevinCow Twitter account.” And he has threatened to sue fellow Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). Lieu’s reply: “Take your letter and shove it.”
Former Nunes staffer (now administration official) Kash Patel, using the same lawyer, has sued Politico.
And now, Nunes has sued The Post.
That’s a lot of litigation for a guy who co-sponsored the Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act of 2017. No contagion will stop this man from having his (many) day(s) in court.
The litigious lawmaker is seeking damages of about $1 billion in his (on occasion careless) lawsuits. He dropped at least one, and another, a racketeering case targeting Fusion GPS and the Campaign for Accountability, was just thrown out by a federal judge who cited doubts about “the factual pleadings and the court’s jurisdiction.”
I’m not a lawyer, but there seems to be an obvious problem with Nunes’s strategy. He generally sues for defamation, but nobody could make Nunes look worse than his own lawsuits do. They read less like legal pleadings than ALL CAPS social media rants.
“Bezos failed to defeat the GOP in 2016, in spite of WaPo’s notoriously libelous reporting,” proclaims his $250 million lawsuit against The Post. “Bezos and his printing press remain desperate to defame the President of the United States and his allies in Congress.” He goes on to say one particular “WaPo Hit Piece is another example of opposition research published by WaPo and [Shane] Harris acting as alter egos for others, including [Adam] Schiff.”
The other lawsuits are similarly bombastic. “CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name,” alleges that lawsuit. “CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable.”
And McClatchy: “Nunes endured a multi-front, orchestrated defamation campaign of stunning breadth and scope, one that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.”
And Hearst: “The Defendants’ had an axe to grind against Plaintiff, and wrote the hit piece in order to accomplish a nefarious purpose. Defendants’ misconduct exemplifies the very worst of modern ‘journalism.’”
And the cow: “Devin Nunes’ cow has made, published and republished hundreds of false and defamatory statements of and concerning Nunes, including the following: Nunes is a ‘treasonous cowpoke’...'Devin’s boots are full of manure. He’s udder-ly worthless and its pasture time to move him to prison'; ‘Devin is whey over his head in crime’...” (Since the filing, @DevinCow has gone from 1,000 followers to 697,000.)
A cynic might conclude that Nunes is not trying to win lawsuits but to force his critics to pay legal fees, thereby creating a chilling effect that deters them from criticism. (But I’d never allege that — so please don’t sue me! Brrrr.)
Now Nunes finds himself on the receiving end of lawyers’ scrutiny. The Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Nunes is receiving free legal services from his lawyer, Steven Biss, in violation of House rules.
Biss, a frequent filer of defamation suits, was suspended for a year and a day in 2009 by the Virginia State Bar based on findings that he “violated federal securities laws” and “committed deliberately wrongful acts that reflect adversely on his fitness to practice law.” He later received a 30-day suspension for violating the terms of his original suspension and a public reprimand over a conflict of interest. He didn’t respond to my email or voicemail.
Biss’s filings typically describe Nunes, who made a name for himself during the Russia and Ukraine probes for his assiduous and sometimes unorthodox defenses of Trump, as “distinguished by his honor … his honesty, integrity, ethics, reputation for truthfulness and veracity."
Not to mention his calm demeanor, equanimity in the face of criticism, and dedicated devotion to discouraging frivolous lawsuits.
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