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Rep. Devin Nunes Sues Washington Post in What May Be His Most Absurd Lawsuit Yet


Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued the Washington Post (again) on Tuesday, alleging that the newspaper and reporter Ellen Nakashima published defamatory statements about a late-night White House visit in 2017 and claims that the Obama administration “spied” on Donald Trump and his associates in Trump Tower.

Nunes’s lawsuits have repeatedly been rejected by courts, but the litigious congressman—who infamously attempted to sue a fake cow and parody of his own mom—appears hell-bent on continuing to pursue litigation that is almost certain to fail. Nunes’s latest lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is based on two sentences in Nakashima’s Nov. 9 article detailing how one of the congressman’s former staffers, Michael Ellis, came to be installed as NSA General Counsel earlier this month.

“In March 2017, he gained publicity for his involvement in a questionable episode involving Nunes, who was given access at the White House to intelligence files that Nunes believed would buttress his baseless claims of the Obama administration spying on Trump Tower,” Nakashima wrote. “News reports stated that Ellis was among the White House officials who helped Nunes see the documents — reportedly late at night, earning the episode the nickname ‘the midnight run.’”

Nunes’s asserted that the Post attributed to him “statements he never made and beliefs he never held,” but the complaint appears to make several easily verifiable false claims, one of which is contradicted in the complaint itself.

For example, Nunes claims that “news reports did not state that Plaintiff was attempting to access intelligence files that would ‘buttress his baseless claims of the Obama administration spying on Trump Tower.’”

But in the first footnote, the complaint refers to the widely-cited New York Times news report that made a wiretapping claim, asserting that it shouldn’t be trusted because the three journalists, all of whom have won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting, are notorious liars.

“Upon information and belief, one of the ‘News reports’ referred to in the Article is a ‘report’ manufactured by New York Times reporters Adam Goldman, Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, well-known for spreading false statements and defamation on behalf of anonymous ‘sources’ at the FBI and State Department,” the complaint said.

The 2017 Times report in question states that Nunes was trying to bolster Trump’s wiretapping claims:

Yet even before Thursday, the view among Democrats and even some Republicans was that Mr. Nunes was given access to the intelligence reports to divert attention from the investigations into Russian meddling, and to bolster Mr. Trump’s debunked claims of having been wiretapped.

Nunes also highlights a second story about the late night encounter written by Nakashima herself, but says that one was based on “false details provided by Democrat Adam Schiff.”

The California congressman was also adamant that he never suggested the Obama administration spied on Trump Tower, a false claim the president has nonetheless repeated numerous times.

“Plaintiff never made the ‘baseless’ claim – or any claim – that the Obama administration spied on Trump Tower. Indeed, prior to publication of the Article, Defendants knew from prior reporting that Plaintiff said the exact opposite – that there was no evidence of any wiretap on Trump Tower,” the complaint stated.

In an August 13, interview with Fox Business, President Donald Trump twice repeated that the Obama administration was caught spying on his campaign.

“They spied on my campaign, which is treason. They spied both before and after I won,” Trump said.

Nunes was the next guest to appear on the show, where host Maria Bartiromo asked if the spying allegations did in fact “go up to [Barack] Obama and [Joe] Biden as the president just told us.”

Nunes responded that Biden knew “damn well” about the administration spying on the Trump campaign.

Virginia’s Eastern District court called out Nunes and his attorney Steven Biss in May for trying to sue the Washington Post—which is based in Washington, D.C.—in the commonwealth, saying the court had “significant concerns” they were “forum shopping.”

“As the Court has explained to Plaintiff’s counsel on numerous occasions, the ‘Court cannot stand as a willing repository for cases which have no real nexus to this district. The ‘rocket docket’ certainly attracts plaintiff(s), but the Court must ensure that this attraction does not dull the ability of the Court to continue to act in an expeditious manner,” Senior U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne wrote in the order.

Read the full lawsuit, also filed by Biss, below:

Nunes Defamation Lawsuit by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.