As Devin Nunes Threatens More SLAPP Suits, He May Have To Explain Why Cows Can Type In His First SLAPP Suit
from the cows-that-type dept
It has become abundantly clear that Devin Nunes, who once co-sponsored the “Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act,” has decided that the best strategy to all of his critics and any reporting that calls him out is to file completely bullshit SLAPP suits against those critics. It started with the lawsuit against a satirical cow and has continued with more lawsuits against reporters, political researchers, newspapers and political strategists. Given that he’s gone on all in with that strategy, it’s no surprise that he says he’s going to sue CNN and the Daily Beast this week, both of whom reported on stories about Nunes that look pretty bad for him.
Because it seems clear that Nunes really doesn’t want you to read these stories, you should probably know that the Daily Beast story quotes indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas’s lawyer Ed MacMahon saying that Parnas “helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe” for Nunes when he visited there last year, while CNN quoted a different Parnas lawyer saying that, among the meetings set up, was one between Nunes and disgraced former Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin. Let’s be clear, if these reports are false, then it’s possible Nunes would have a claim against Parnas (or potentially Parnas’ lawyers,), but not the news orgs reporting what he said. And it seems telling that when asked whether or not the story was true, Nunes did not deny it:
On Sunday, Bartiromo asked Nunes a very straightforward question ? ?Were you in Vienna with Shokin?? ? but instead of answering, Nunes railed against the media and threatened to get litigious.
?I really want to answer all of these questions … but because there is criminal activity here, we?re working with the appropriate law enforcement agencies, we?re gonna file all this ? everyone is gonna know the truth, everyone is gonna know all the facts ? but I think you can understand that I can?t compete by trying to debate this out with the public media, when 90 percent of the media are totally corrupt,? Nunes said.
He continued: ?And because this is criminal in nature, and because it?s so bad, it?s so slanderous, we?ve got all the facts on our side, and we?re going to file in federal court, because I?m not gonna sit here and try to compete against the media that I have no chance of winning with. I will win in court, and they?ll have a chance to cooperate, and they?ll have to show how they work with someone who has been indicted, which is likely conspiring to obstruct justice.?
Just to be clear, this is all utter and complete nonsense. Their reporting isn’t criminal. It’s certainly not “slanderous.” This is Nunes throwing shit at the wall rather than responding to a serious journalist’s question.
Somewhat hilariously, Nunes also claims that when he sues both media properties, he doesn’t think they’ll show up in court and he’ll have to chase them down.
Devin Nunes says he thinks CNN and The Daily Beast will not show up to court but he will track them down and hold them accountable pic.twitter.com/7qJnZOxMb9
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) November 26, 2019
In that video, talking to Sean Hannity, Nunes says:
I have a bet for you Sean: CNN and the Daily Beast are going to run for cover. They’re going to fight this. They’re not going to show up in court. They’re not going to accept service. But at the end of the day I’m going to track them down, and I’m going to hold them accountable.
If I were Sean Hannity, I’d take that bet and double down. I’d bet a decent sum of money that assuming Nunes actually moves forward with this very dumb legal strategy, that not only will those two media companies accept service and show up in court, they’ll show up with lawyers eager to blast these cases to smithereens and make Nunes look like the petty frivolous SLAPP-suit filing loser he is. I’d also imagine that both media operations might actually be willing to jump straight to the discovery process, as I’m sure they’d actually love to let their lawyers depose Nunes.
Meanwhile, back in that very first case, against the satirical Twitter cow, you may recall that Nunes himself admitted that these lawsuits were really fishing expeditions to find out who various journalist sources were, a claim that was made even more obvious in that case when his discovery demands were made public.
Part of the fishing expedition is a subpoena to Adam Parkomenko, a Democratic political strategist, who Nunes appears to think is somehow connected to the satirical accounts. Parkomenko hired lawyer Scott Surovell, who filed one of the most fun legal documents you’ll ever read in support of his motion to quash the subpoena. There’s the technical stuff — claiming various process and rules violations regarding how the subpoena was issued, but that’s not what has gotten the internet all excited. But then, the memorandum has some fun in explaining why the entire lawsuit is frivolous nonsense, including highlighting the lack of opposable digits from cows:
Both of these anonymous Twitter accounts are blatant parody accounts. No reasonable person would believe that Devin Nunes’ cow actually has a Twitter account, or that the hyperbole, satire and cow-related jokes it posts are serious facts. It is self-evident that cows are domesticated livestock animals and do not have the intelligence, language, or opposable digits needed to operate a Twitter account. Moreover, by purporting to be from a cow, with the excessive use ofcow puns and cow imagery, it is plainly evident that it is not a serious news outlet. Defendant “Devin Nunes’ Mom” likewise posts satirical patronizing, nagging, mothering comments which ostensibly treat Mr. Nunes as a misbehaving child. In light of the content, a reasonable person, reading the accounts in context, would not take Defendant “Devin Nunes’ Cow” or Defendant “Devin Nunes’ Mom” to be serious accounts imparting actual facts about Plaintiff. They are parody accounts. As such, the statements at issue in this case lack the defamatory sting necessary to state a cause of action.
Clearly, Mr. Surovell is unfamiliar with the popular children’s book Click Clack, Moo; Cows That Type (which is actually a lot of fun), but maybe he doesn’t have young kids. I don’t think it would change the argument much, either way.
And, of course, all this has really done is opened up yet another opportunity for people to dunk on Nunes and call out questions about his actions. Indeed, Parkhomenko is now raising some questions about who is funding Nunes’ legal spree:
Nunes makes *zero* from the fake farm and has reported *zero* in political legal fees to his Henrico attorney. So just who is funding this frivolous attack on me, his mom, cow and Liz? (pro-tip: corporate in-kinds from an attorney are illegal for a member of house) #Conspiracy
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) November 29, 2019
If Nunes thought these lawsuits would create chilling effects and silence journalists and his critics, it appears he may be mistaken.