Rep. Lieu Tells Rep. Nunes He Looks Forward To Discovery, As More Evidence Of Nunes Connections With Parnas Emerge

from the don't-have-a-cow,-man dept

Last week we noted that the latest person that Rep. Devin Nunes was threatening to sue (a constantly growing list) was a fellow Congressional Representative, Ted Lieu. Nunes was particularly mad that Lieu had said Nunes “conspired” with Lev Parnas, the now indicted Rudy Giuliani aide who has been dribbling out a bunch of fascinating info lately. We, and many others, had asked Lieu to release the letter from Nunes’ lawyer, and he finally released the first page as well as his own response letter. And the timing is interesting, because it comes just as the House released new evidence of a connection between Parnas and Nunes.

First, though, let’s look at the letter Nunes’ regular SLAPP-happy lawyer, Steven Biss, sent to Lieu:

We’ve seen plenty of ridiculous and empty defamation threat letters, but this one surprised me in how absolutely stupid it is. Rather than your typical defamation letter, Biss is claiming that the Constitution protects a person’s “right to an unimpaired reputation.” This is not something that exists. But here’s what the part of the letter that Lieu revealed says:

Dear Mr. Lieu:

I represent Devin G. Nunes.

As I am sure you are aware, the United States Constitution and the common law faithfully protect a person’s “absolute” right to an unimpaired reputation. In Rosenblatt v. Baer, the United States Supreme Court expressly affirmed that:

“‘Society has a pervasive and strong interest in preventing and redressing attacks upon reputation.’ The right of a man to the protection of his own reputation from unjustified invasion and wrongful hurt reflects no more than our basic concept of essential dignity and worth of every human being–a concept at the root of any decent system of ordered liberty … The destruction that defamatory falsehood can bring is, to be sure, often beyond the capacity of the law to redeem. Yet, imperfect though it is, an action for damages is the only hope for vindication or redress the law gives to a man whose reputation has been falsely dishonored”.

First of all, what an odd citation to use. Rosenblatt v. Baer does not say that you have an absolute right to an unimpaired reputation. Second, the court in Rosenblatt rejected an attempt by a public figure to sue for defamation. It came out soon after the much more well known and important New York Times v. Sullivan case that said for there to be defamation of a public figure, the statements had to be made by someone knowing they were false, or demonstrating reckless disregard for the truth. And, in Rosenblatt v. Baer, the court determined that you couldn’t sue someone just for being critical of your actions as a government employee.

Here’s part of the ruling not cited by Nunes’ lawyer, who quotes only the first bit of this, but leaves out what comes right afterward and which I’ve highlighted:

Society has a pervasive and strong interest in preventing and redressing attacks upon reputation. But in cases like the present, there is tension between this interest and the values nurtured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The thrust of New York Times is that when interests in public discussion are particularly strong, as they were in that case, the Constitution limits the protections afforded by the law of defamation. Where a position in government has such apparent importance that the public has an independent interest in the qualifications and performance of the person who holds it, beyond the general public interest in the qualifications and performance of all government employees, both elements we identified in New York Times are present and the New York Times malice standards apply.

In other words, going by the standard in Rosenblatt v. Baer, Nunes has no leg to stand on. Oh, and also, the actual section that Biss is quoting from is not the majority opinion, but rather a concurrence by Justice Stewart that (even while concurring) complains about the quoted section the majority put forth above. In other words, this is not the official position of the Supreme Court.

This is bad lawyering upon bad lawyering.

Anyway, that takes us to Lieu’s response which is… just wonderful:

Dear Mr. Biss,

I received your letter dated December 31, 2019 in which you state your client Congressman Devin Nunes will sue me if I don’t, among other actions, issue a public apology to Devin Nunes. It is true that I stated Congressman Nunes worked with Lev Parnas and conspired to undermine our own government. As you know, truth is a defense. So go read the documents and text messages provided by Lev Parnas to the House of Representatives, and watch his interview on the Rachel Maddow Show, which aired on January 15, 2020, that directly implicates Rep Nunes.

I welcome any lawsuit from your client and look forward to taking discovery of Congressman Nunes. Or, you can take your letter and shove it.

Daaaaaaaaaaamn, Congressman. Bringing fire.

Anyway, about the time that Lieu released that letter, the House released a bunch of Whatsapp messages, provided by Parnas, between Parnas and top Devin Nunes aide Dereck Harvey. It shows Harvey and Parnas discussing US foreign aid to Ukraine and setting up some sort of interviews, including with the former Ukraine Prosecutor General, Viktor Shokin. They also set up a few meetings between themselves at the Trump Hotel in DC including one conversation the very day before previously released records showed Nunes and Parnas playing phone tag, before apparently connecting for over eight minutes.

And, in case you forgot, here are the phone records between Parnas and Nunes.


As the Politico article linked above notes:

The newly released text messages show Harvey asking Parnas to pursue several lines of inquiry with his Ukrainian contacts, including one regarding what Harvey calls ?rumors? about coordination between the 2016 campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on Trump?s campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Harvey asked a few days later whether Parnas was preparing to send documents or if he would ?keep working through [John] Solomon,? a reference to a former columnist at The Hill who was working closely with Parnas and Giuliani on the effort.

Over the next few weeks, the pair attempted to arrange Skype interviews between Republican staff of the Intelligence Committee and senior officials in Ukraine, including former prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Yuri Lutsenko, who had been working to oust Yovanovitch and had offered up allegations of dirt on Biden.

So, uh, yeah. I’m guessing for all the bluster and questionable legal arguments from Biss, Devin Nunes probably does not want to sue Lieu and find himself in discovery. The question is whether or not Nunes is actually smart enough to know when he should take one of his silly legal threats and “shove it,” or if he’s going to continue down his destructive path of suing anyway.

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Comments on “Rep. Lieu Tells Rep. Nunes He Looks Forward To Discovery, As More Evidence Of Nunes Connections With Parnas Emerge”

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46 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Some people, from both “sides” of the aisle, really do seek office to serve the public good. But more often than not, conservatives/Republicans/right-wingers seek office as a means to an end (i.e., making shitloads of money). Their whole schtick is to dupe people too ignorant to know better that everyone on the other “side” of the political aisle is coming for guns, God, men’s rights, straight people’s rights, and whatever else works. (“The gays want to force bakers to make cakes for them!”, for example.) Once those people are duped, the grifters in office fundraise for their campaigns off the mis- and disinformation, while the grifters not in office (including people who once held office) make bank by selling books, going on speaking tours, and showing up on conservative news outlets to further spread the bullshit. Those media outlets help the cause (and grift their own audiences) by refusing to correct dis- and misinformation.

You can argue (succesfully, I might add) that liberals/Democrats/left-wingers pull the same grift. But the left-wing grift isn’t nearly as dishonest, greedy, and mired in doubletalk bullshit. The right-wing grift contends that leftists are both fragile snowflakes who fall apart at even the smallest bit of “political correctness” and hyper-threatening antifa terrorists waiting for the chance to act violent. The left-wing grift is more about pointing out the truth of the matter: Conservatives want to control women’s bodies by (among other things) banning abortion, push queer people back into the closet so they can’t be part of the general public, and — at least in some right-wing circles — reinstate segregation as a demonstration of the inherent superiority of White people.

Politics in general is a grift. Everyone knows this. But right-wingers, far more often than left wingers, lack the conscience necessary to keep the grift from becoming a full-blown scam.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"…conservatives/Republicans/right-wingers seek office as a means to an end (i.e., making shitloads of money)."

Sure, because no Democrat ever wanted to make money working for the government. They’re not greedy in the slightest!

"Conservatives want to control women’s bodies by (among other things) banning abortion,"

OH MY GOD, more babies are being born! We must stop this RIGHT NOW! How about stop killing children?

push queer people back into the closet so they can’t be part of the general public,

No, just don’t give them special rights.

and — at least in some right-wing circles — reinstate segregation as a demonstration of the inherent superiority of White people.

Wow, you’re a dumbass.

Get help.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"Sure, because no Democrat ever wanted to make money working for the government. They’re not greedy in the slightest!"

Actual left wingers (not necessarily Democrats) at least pay lip service to improving the lives of other people in doing whatever they do.

"How about stop killing children?"

How about you stop killing women (which is guaranteed to happen to some when safe abortion is unavailable), and taking away their rights the moment someone impregnates them?

"No, just don’t give them special rights."

Nobody’s trying to do that. But some people sure take offense when you suggest they have the same rights as straight people.

"Wow, you’re a dumbass."

What did he say that was wrong? Note that he said "some right-wing circles", which includes vocal white supremacist groups.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

OH MY GOD, more babies are being born! We must stop this RIGHT NOW! How about stop killing children?

No, just don’t give them special rights.

Why are you trying to give a fetus, something that is part of a woman’s body, special rights?

Wow, you’re a dumbass.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"just look up the definition of fetus in a dictionary (whether general or medical)"

OK, let’s look at the first definition on dictionary.com:

fetus[ fee-tuh s ]SHOW IPA
SEE SYNONYMS FOR fetus ON THESAURUS.COM
noun, plural fe·tus·es. Embryology.
(used chiefly of viviparous mammals) the young of an animal in the womb or egg, especially in the later stages of development when the body structures are in the recognizable form of its kind, in humans after the end of the second month of gestation.

Yeah… that doesn’t say what you think it does. Especially note the "later stages of development" and "second month of gestation", which supports the fact that you’re lying when you claim that woman who have abortions early in their pregnancies are killing children…

Whereas it’s provable that women who are forced to continue their pregnancies despite having life threatening medical conditions are being killed by those who deny them access.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Sure, because no Democrat ever wanted to make money working for the government. They’re not greedy in the slightest!

I can’t argue with that, but Dems tend to be less upfront about their hunger for $.

OH MY GOD, more babies are being born! We must stop this RIGHT NOW! How about stop killing children?

If you honestly believe a zygote == a child, hold funerals for tampons. After all, a pregnancy might have failed, killing the "child."

No, just don’t give them special rights.

They only want the same rights as everyone else. When they demand I walk around wearing nothing but a leather bikini and a ball gag (imagine at your own risk; I’m 48 and hate exercise), I’ll worry.

>and — at least in some right-wing circles — reinstate segregation as a demonstration of the inherent superiority of White people.

Wow, you’re a dumbass.

No, he’s right. Trump did exactly that. He’s still doing that. Have you heard of white kids being put in cages lately? Me neither.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Yep, the "special rights" tend to be along the lines of "let’s treat gay people to same as we treat straights". The biggest right-wing talking point examples have been allowing gays to have exactly the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples, and a cake shop being forced to supply the same cake that they were agreeing to supply before they found out the couple was gay.

I’d have thought that if there were any real special rights being demanded, these weak examples wouldn’t be held up so much by the bigots.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"But the left-wing grift isn’t nearly as dishonest, greedy, and mired in doubletalk bullshit."

Hrm. That’s the way it seems right now, but back when ACTA and the DMCA was being negotiated..?

Fact of the matter is the democrats only ever tighten ship when they absolutely have to. Up until that point they are more or less the same as the right.

It’s just that both parties used to better at hiding the obvious malfeasance.

"The left-wing grift is more about pointing out the truth of the matter: Conservatives want to control women’s bodies by (among other things) banning abortion…"

When the democrat spiel isn’t about controlling free speech or abolishing good jurisprudens because copyright.

I’m what americans would call "left-wing" myself even when at home i come off as a liberal conservative centrist…but I have to say if you try to make the claim the american democratic party is any less corrupt than the GOP then I have this bridge I’d like to sell you.

Sorry, Stephen, but even if you can successfully argue that the GOP is a lot worse than the left for MANY reasons that simply doesn’t give the dems a pass because relative morality.

Bernie is an aberration because he’s one of those who deeply cares who ended up running as a candidate – and to be completely fair the democratic party would never have allowed Bernie to get to that point if he hadn’t joined the democrats at the end of his base-building as an independent.

GWB was a similar aberration who the GOP allowed to get to candidacy only because he was honestly dumb and had what they thought was a strong team of handlers.

Most other high-powered party politicians are either completely political animals who have trained themselves for many years to have and express no thoughts of their own so as not to mess up their chances of promotion; Or utter grifters, completely in it because it’s the one legal way for a con man to make a living.

And that goes for the Dems as well as for the GOP. Until the Indies finally break the pseudomonopoly those two parties have on the votes and seats, that’s the way it’s going to continue.

In fact, I’ll argue that each and every election since 1950, when the last major reshuffle took place, has degraded the quality further as both parties take notice just how little interest the average american shows towards who actually stands to run the country.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Guys, the Democrats don’t walk in lockstep. There are right-wingers (Blue Dog) and an assortment of progressive/liberals all the way through to outright socialists.

By contrast, the GOP is exclusively composed of different kinds of right-winger. The one outlier I know of is Governor Bill Weld, who seems like a reasonable, sane person. Until more evidence of the existence of other reasonable, sane GOP members is brought to my attention, I’ll continue to believe that.

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Anonymous Coward says:

The ram approaches the wall

Remember the “murum aries attigit” theory of defamation litigation.

Rep. Lieu has received a declaration of intent to sue (barring retraction). He could, at this point, sue for a declaration of non-infringement.

But no… litigation is expensive, and Lieu is already able to reap the benefit of Nunes’ intemperate lawsnit.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: The ram approaches the wall

FWIW, while declaratory judgment filings are routinely made in cases about copyright infringement and the like, courts REALLY frown on them in defamation cases. Indeed, some courts tend to reject them outright, which could backfire significantly on Lieu and allow Nunes to claim victory…

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: The ram approaches the wall

Lieu is a smart chap. I’m fairly sure he already knows that. He’s also level-headed and thoughtful. Okay, I’m fangirling. I have a massive weak spot for men who love truth and are willing to put their money where their mouths are where this is concerned.

My (admittedly biased prediction): Nunes will back down because Lieu wants the information discovery would bring.

Bruce C. says:

Is Parnas considered a foreign agent?

He appears to be a US citizen, but if he’s acted on behalf of foreign interests, I’m not sure what the law is.

If Parnas IS identified as a foreign agent, i wonder if Rep. Nunes (as a member of the intelligence committee) was diligent in reporting his contacts with a foreign agent to the FBI.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Madd the Sane (profile) says:

Re: Is Parnas considered a foreign agent?

[I]f he’s acted on behalf of foreign interests[…]

He was acting in Trump’s interests. Not Ukraine’s, not the USA’s, just Trump’s.

I think the fact of how candid Parnas is being could be because he didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Or, a person caught up in a cult. I’m not saying he isn’t culpable for his actions, but psychologists are starting to weigh in on how Trump’s following is rather cult like. I think it’s a legitimate mitigating factor. And while I hold some skepticism, I think it’s worth seeing if his claims can be substantiated, some of which have.
And I find it hilarious that he is going to keep putting out pictures and videos proving these people who deny knowing him are lying.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"…but psychologists are starting to weigh in on how Trump’s following is rather cult like."

Naturally. anyone still in close proximity to Trump is someone who has grown used to buttering up the Grinning Orange while simultaneously displaying sufficient fear and awe about the prospect of ending up scorned by said fruit so as not to call down dias irae.

And as for his followers among the citizenry, well, you can’t blame them. By now they have sunk so much of their own ego and personal credibility into him that should he fall of his pedestal they’ll have to realize that they will, every morning thenceforth, be facing a total utter idiot when looking in the mirror.

Psychologists have observed the phenomenon that as the outside criticism against the leader of a cult grows harsher and more persuasive the harder the inner circle of the cult resists accepting factual reality, the stricter the rules become, and the harsher the condemnation is of anyone daring to question.

People don’t want to be wrong and that ironically holds twice as true for those simple folks looking for easy answers to hard questions.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Rolling a 1 on your bluff check

That must have been an unpleasant surprise. Try to intimidate yet another person critical of him only to be told ‘either you back down or I will gladly take it to court where everyone can see the evidence against you’.

At this point I expect that Nunes and/or his lawyer will bluster and throw out more trash excuses about how Rep. Lieu is being just so mean to him before running away as fast as his cowardly legs will take him, because I do not see this one working out well for him if they call his bluff and he decides to take it to court.

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Thad (profile) says:

Sacramento Bee calls on Nunes to resign

Regardless of whether you lean Democratic or Republican, here’s an undeniable fact: Nunes lied. He lied to the American people and to his own constituents about the Ukraine allegations, dismissing them although he knew they were true. He deliberately misled the American people by attempting to undermine impeachment hearings that examined an anti-Biden effort in which his own office had direct involvement.

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restless94110 (profile) says:

Ted and Lev

You must have one of the worst cases of TDS I did ever see, with this article touting Ted Lieu, who wants the First Amendment removed because it is a nuisance and Lev Parnas, a serial liar.

Simply incredible. We get it: you hate Nunes so any fool, charlatan, and rat gets kudos from you. Thanks for reminding me over and over again why I left the Left.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ted and Lev

"There’s nothing stopping any republican from calling someone to rebut Lev."

Well, they’ve been trying the "nope, never met the guy before" tactic from what I’ve seen, which keeps failing as all the photo and video evidence of them meeting with the guy multiple times keep emerging.

https://www.salon.com/2020/01/21/attorney-shares-video-of-mike-pence-with-lev-parnas-after-vice-president-denies-knowing-his-client/

Maybe once they realise they can’t deny knowing him, they’ll start addressing what he’s saying?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Ted and Lev

Maybe once they realise they can’t deny knowing him, they’ll start addressing what he’s saying?

I doubt it.

Seems like a more reasonable explanation would be – "he was just a coffee boy" or "he was just following all of us around and we didn’t know who he was."

IOW – The "I am as stupid as I look" defense.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Ted and Lev

Ted Lieu, who wants the First Amendment removed because it is a nuisance

The plaintiff offers no facts or evidence in support of their claim, so it must be disregarded.

Lev Parnas, a serial liar

Well, sure, he’s lied, but I don’t know enough about him to call him a serial liar. His current claims, at least, don’t appear to be inconsistent with any of the evidence or trustworthy testimony at this time. But it’s not like his testimony is the only evidence we’re using in these claims. In particular, we have records of text messages that prove Nunes wrong and Lieu right. If this was a “he said, she said” scenario, then I would be a bit more skeptical, but we have actual evidence, not just testimony, here.

Also, if you think TD is leftist, then you probably think anyone who doesn’t support Trump is a leftist. Have you seen TD’s criticisms of Biden, Warren, Feinstein, Obama, and other Democrats, not to mention advocates for hate speech laws? They are certainly not leftist.

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