Devin Nunes Follows Through And Sues CNN In Laughably Dumb SLAPP Suit

from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

As he promised last week, Rep. Devin Nunes has now sued CNN for defamation for accurately reporting what the indicted Lev Parnas's lawyers had told them about Devin Nunes. Rather than state court in Virginia, this time, Nunes' lawyer, Steven Biss filed the case in the big boy federal court in Virginia. This complaint may be the most laughable one yet of Nunes' various SLAPP suits, and I should remind you that one of them involves him suing a cow.

The timing of this suit was a bit inauspicious, given that it was filed at around the same time as the House Intelligence Committee released its Impeachment Inquiry Report, which shows multiple phone records showing that Devin Nunes and Lev Parnas were in phone contact with each other -- which is the very heart of the CNN story. From the report:


That appears to show Parnas and Nunes playing a bit of phone tag before finally talking for nearly 10 minutes.

After the report came out, Nunes went on Fox News to says he didn't recall ever talking to Parnas and that he hadn't checked his records.

“Did you ever talk to this guy Les Parnas or whatever his name is?” Hannity asked, mispronouncing the Giuliani henchman’s name while acting like he barely knows who Parnas is.

“You know, it’s possible,” Nunes replied. “I haven’t gone through my phone records. I don’t really recall that name.”

“I remember the name now because he has been indicted,” the conservative congressman added. “Why would CNN rely on somebody like this? I will go back and check my records, but it seems very unlikely I will be taking calls from random people.”

And yet, in the complaint, Nunes makes explicit claims about when he was not in contact with Parnas, suggesting that he has checked his records. The complaint is oddly specific in the timing:

I'm sorry, but if CNN just got the date wrong for when Nunes and Parnas spoke, that's not even anywhere in the vicinity of defamation. The lawsuit says that they weren't in contact in December, but the phone records show (at the very least) that they were in contact in April. While Biss's various SLAPP filings have all been fairly performative, this one takes the performance to new and ridiculous levels. It seems likely that the entire point of this lawsuit is to whip up something of a frenzy among people who insist that CNN is "fake news." No serious lawsuit would start this way:

CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable.

But, this one does. Much of the complaint focuses on the argument that Parnas is not a trustworthy source. That may be true, but then it would seem if Nunes had a claim against anyone, it would be Parnas, not CNN. The complaint is 47 pages, but a significant percentage of it is taken up by giant screenshot of tweets, rather than actual legal arguments. And, beyond the defamation ("per se" because people like to say "defamation per se" in the belief that it means "obvious defamation" even though it does not), it also includes a "common law conspiracy" claim based on more nonsense.

With this lawsuit, in which he demands $435 million, Nunes' total claims in his various SLAPP suits is rapidly approaching a billion dollars.

Meanwhile, recall that last week, Nunes promised Hannity that CNN would "run" from this lawsuit and he would chase them down. I'm guessing that the opposite is going to happen, as CNN will likely "run" towards the courthouse to try to get to discovery as fast as possible:

Meanwhile, with all of these lawsuits, more and more people are starting to ask just who is paying for all of these lawsuits. Nunes has definitely decided that going on the offensive in filing multiple SLAPP suits against journalists and critics (even satirical cows) is a worthwhile strategy, but it's difficult to see an end game here that makes any sense at all.

Filed Under: anti-slapp, conspiracy, defamation, devin nunes, lev parnas, slapp, steven biss, virginia
Companies: cnn


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  • icon
    DB (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 10:53am

    I understand that these lawsuits are all about harassment, and that they are usually very effective.

    But I fail to see how this one can accomplish its goal. He's not suing a cow, which presumably has very modest resources to hire lawyers, risks losing its life savings, and doesn't have thumbs. He is suing CNN, which has staff lawyers, makes money over big headlines, and certainly looks forward to the prospect of forcing this plaintiff into discovery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      spodula, 5 Dec 2019 @ 4:57am

      Re:

      Especially as if you believe the name, its his own Cow, so he would only be doing himself wrong...

      Saying that, he's doing that already....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 8:53pm

      Re: [CNN looking forward to discovery]

      certainly looks forward to the prospect of forcing this plaintiff into discovery

      That is likely to be the better strategy: answer, raising as defenses things such as might otherwise be bases motions to dismiss. Then you can launch discovery, with interrogatories including identification of untruthful statements, speaker of each, damages flowing from each, and of course Mr. Nunez' starting value prior to the defamation.

      Depending on the rules in the forum state, there may also be an opportunity to include an offer of judgment at an early stage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 10:58am

    Devin Nunes, to his lawyers: CNN would obviously run from this fight. It’s owned by a massive multi-billion-dollar media conglomerate with plenty of money for lawyers. So why would they risk losing the suit by keeping it alive and going through to discovery?

    One of the lawyers: Well, sir…

    Nunes: You’re fired. And sued for defamation. And I’m pretty sure I can claim eminent domain on your house now. Now get out before I have you thrown out and sued for the emotional distress of having you thrown out.

    [the lawyer leaves]

    Nunes: This is an excellent plan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stan (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:06am

    How much $$$ ?

    "With this lawsuit, in which he demands $435 million..."

    Wait, what? Nunes thinks his reputation is worth $435 million???

    I want to suggest otherwise, but I'm udderly afraid that he would sue me if I did.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:46am

      If you're not an actual billionaire, there's always pretend

      Oh no no no, $435 million is simply the damage (he claims was) caused by this particular target, according to Nunes his reputation is worth far more than that even now, to the tune of just shy of a billion dollars so far.

      In March of this year, a parody Twitter account caused $250M in damages by destroying @DevinNunes's life/reputation/etc. So how could CNN, Ryan Lizza, and the Fresno Bee do additional damage to the tune of $435M, $75M, and $150M respectively?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Norahc (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:59am

        Re: If you're not an actual billionaire, there's always pretend

        Nothing like Devin Nunes inflating the value of his reputation by a factor of one million.

        Personally, I think his reputation is worth 5 cents...give or take 4.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:33pm

        660 million in damages before cow and before intact reputation

        Nunes' reputation has suffered more than 660 million damages in reputation (not including mom and cow). If he were the Titanic (and sinking) this would be the first six of sixteen watertight compartments, making his reputation (according to the Titanic metaphor) worth $1.1 billion

        So Devin Nunes, according to this math is like Nathan Explosion from Dethklok.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:47am

      Re: How much $$$ ?

      I'm pretty sure a news outlet could refer to him as an accused traitor & criminal, and it would likely be accurate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:32pm

      Re: How much $$$ ?

      Mr. Nunes is shooting for the monetary MOOOOOOOON!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 8:57pm

      Re: How much $$$ ?

      Nunes thinks his reputation is worth $435 million???

      Well, of course it is. In late 2008 Zimbabwe dollars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:10am

    Or maybe Nunes thought he would be chasing CNN toward the court house?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:37am

      Re:

      He'd be chasing CNN because they're already so far ahead of him in their arguments, they've presented their airtight case and left before he bothers to show up.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:32am

    'Look over there, a distraction!'

    Nunes has definitely decided that going on the offensive in filing multiple SLAPP suits against journalists and critics (even satirical cows) is a worthwhile strategy, but it's difficult to see an end game here that makes any sense at all.

    You answered your own question earlier in the article, as the goal is pretty clearly an attempt to rile up the gullible and act as a distraction from things he'd much rather people not be talking about.

    Much better(for him) to spin this as a story about a poor beleaguered politician who's had his reputation dragged through the mud by liars than have people asking just why he's been so defensive about certain claims and why he might have been talking to certain people, and if the cases get laughed out of court he can then play that up as further proof of how 'victimized' he is to the foolish as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:34am

      Yeah, these lawsuits are absolutely part of a right-wing grift. He’ll be fundraising off at least the CNN suit (and its eventual withdrawl) sooner rather than later.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 12:10pm

        A sucker born every minute

        The only thing more pathetic than that sort of tactic is that they keep doing it because it works.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 12:33pm

        Re:

        If CNN wants this to continue (and it might), the company could make it impossible for Nunes to drop the suit unilaterally.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 12:42pm

          Re: Re:

          If, as seems to be the case, the facts being sued over are accurate or mostly accurate I don't see why they wouldn't want to nail his foot to the floor and keep the lawsuit in play until it's conclusion, as it just provides them an opportunity to show just how groundless the lawsuit against them is.

          Dropping the lawsuit on the other hand could all too easily(if incorrectly) be spun as them 'running away', playing right into his hands and letting him get away without any sort of penalty, potentially to pull the same stunt again in the future.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:06pm

            More to the point: Continuing the lawsuit would give CNN’s lawyers access to the discovery phase, and I highly doubt Nunes’s reputation (such as it is now) would survive whatever comes out of discovery. He’ll try to drop the suit before it ever gets that far. I’d personally love to see CNN nail his feet to the floor on this one, though.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:22pm

              'They'll run away any second now!' screamed the fleeing man

              Oh yeah, I fully expect that once he realizes that CNN isn't going to stick to the script he's written out for them where they run away(for some reason), and that if the lawsuit continues CNN will be able to dig into things even more than they already have he's going to remember that he's got just so many ovens he needs to check back home and bail as quickly as possible if he can.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Norahc (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:17pm

          Re: Re:

          I hope they do make it impossible for him to cut and run...discovery alone would be priceless.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:35pm

          Nunes cannot unilaterally drop the lawsuit.

          All the delicious popcorn. All the delicious popcorn in the world.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:49am

    That's it...I'm calling it. Devin Nunes has achieved Prenda status for chutzpah.

    My popcorn futures haven't looked this good in years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 12:58pm

    What's normal procedure...

    What's normal procedure when a company tells provable lies about you repeatedly? How are you supposed to react to that? He has proof they told lies. What should he do?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Norahc (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:01pm

      Re: What's normal procedure...

      Start by suing the person who made the supposed lies, not the media agency quoting that person in the course of reporting on it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Zof (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

        So he should sue CNN then. Thanks.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Norahc (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

          for accurately reporting what the indicted Lev Parnas's lawyers had told them about Devin Nunes.

          So how is CNN responsible for quoting what Lev Parnas's lawyers told them? All CNN did is accurately quote what they were told, and who told them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:14pm

            So how is CNN responsible for quoting what Lev Parnas's lawyers told them?

            Zof, probably: They should’ve known this guy who had contact with Nunes was a liar! …wait—

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

            Just like the networks who lost to Richard Jewell?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 8:22pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

              No. Thanks for playing though. Our hostesses have some lovely parting gifts for you. Including the home version of whatabout...

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Dan, 4 Dec 2019 @ 11:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

            "Accurately quote what they were told" is not a defense to defamation; CNN has their own responsibility for the truth of what they're reporting. Since Nunes is a public figure, that responsibility is pretty low, but it isn't obviated by the fact that "that's what he told me."

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 4:35am

              'In other news, person X said... something... and is being sued'

              "Accurately quote what they were told" is not a defense to defamation

              Barring some legal precedent or law I'm not aware of it kinda is, yeah, as the alternative would make it illegal to report on defamation cases without being vague to the point of uselessness.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 6:55am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

              "Accurately quote what they were told" is not a defense to defamation;

              Truth is an absolute defense against defamation. So if the person they're reporting on actually said the thing CNN reported that they said, then there is no defamation case against CNN. Remember, if the statement by CNN is "Lev Parnas said 'Roses are red'" then the question of truth is whether Parnas said that, not whether roses are red.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2019 @ 7:09am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

              "Accurately quote what they were told" is not a defense to defamation; CNN has their own responsibility for the truth of what they're reporting. Since Nunes is a public figure, that responsibility is pretty low, but it isn't obviated by the fact that "that's what he told me."

              Feel free to join Nunes at the kiddie table and let the adults continue their conversation.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              DB (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 9:24am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

              There are certainly some limits, but this doesn't appear to come close to those limits.

              CNN can't search for some uninvolved person willing to make outrageous claims, and then report a quote as if it has validity.

              But this is quoting the lawyers for a major figure directly involved in the situation and, as it turns out, a person that has provably been in communication with Devin Nunes. It's absolutely newsworthy. I don't see their reporting as even being in a grey area, let alone coming close to the line.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Tanner Andrews (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 9:03pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

              "Accurately quote what they were told" is not a defense to defamation;

              Not sure what state you are in, but I bet it has a lot of other unusual laws also. Well, yes, I guess "drug-induced stupor" is a state.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

          Obviously reading comprehension is not your strong suit.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:03pm

      Re: What's normal procedure...

      Devin Nunes is a public figure. There are other ways to defend yourself than frivolous and unconstitutional defamation lawsuits. For instance, hiring PR flacks to spin the story.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:07pm

      What's normal procedure when a company tells provable lies about you repeatedly?

      First, you prove they told a lie. Given the evidence, I see no flagrant lies in what CNN reported about him — or, at the least, no lie that rises to the level of defamation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Norahc (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:10pm

        Re:

        Especially considering that Nunes would have to prove actual malice and not just his standard butthurt in the first degree claims.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 5:54am

        Re:

        What's normal procedure when a company tells provable lies about you repeatedly?

        First, you prove they told a lie. Given the evidence, I see no flagrant lies in what CNN reported about him — or, at the least, no lie that rises to the level of defamation.

        This applies in all cases. When that troll came after me, I was able to prove the negative by pointing out the multiple posts using similar aliases and linking to that helpful post with the screenshot of the email from a .ru address. There was no need to sue, I just provided the evidence and down went the false posts -- from the reliable platforms. The unreliable one at least let me post a rebuttal. Remember, it's not defamation unless actual harm is done. Trash talk is not defamation until it has a visible effect on your life, e.g. you lose your job over it.

        While the lies told about me do rise to the level of defamation per se, I'd have no standing due to the lack of actual harm done; I was promoted shortly afterwards so there's only butthurt to sue for, and that is not actionable.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:13pm

      Re: What's normal procedure...

      “He has proof they told lies.”

      Cool story bro. I for one can’t wait for your eventual apology for being demonstrably wrong. Though we all know you’re not man enough to own up to your own mistakes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DB (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:58pm

      Re: What's normal procedure...

      The only obviously lie that we have right now is that Nunes was untruthful when he said that he didn't talk to Lev. Nunes didn't expect that there would be phone billing records.

      My guess is that Nunes missed many other details. The paper trail has already tripped him up just a few days into his lawsuit. You can deny everything and spread manure on TV talk shows, but once you get into court your claims and comments aren't forgotten by the next news cycle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 9:17pm

      Re: What's normal procedure...

      What's normal procedure when a company tells provable lies about you repeatedly? How are you supposed to react to that? He has proof they told lies. What should he do?

      Publicly present proof of the lies, and their reputation will suffer.

      You don't need a lawsuit to do that. Nunes has a bully pulpit and the media will widely report on what he has to say.

      Why do you need to sue over non-defamatory material. So odd that you immediately assume that suing is the answer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 6 Dec 2019 @ 5:58am

        Re: Re: What's normal procedure...

        What Mike said.

        Publicly present proof of the lies, and their reputation will suffer.

        No damage was done to my reputation since nobody could take an obvious troll seriously. When "Obvious troll is obvious," nothing worth reporting happens.

        Here's the fun part; suing for butthurt to shut people up tends to backfire hard on the perpetrators. We point and laugh at them for being so thin-skinned and resorting to the bully pulpit instead of taking it on the chin like a grownup.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:29pm

    I think he's suffering from mad cow disease.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AlexisR200, 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:29pm

    Devin Nunes, for times when you don't just want your corrupt Congress critters to be garden variety dishonest but aggressively stupid too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 3:00pm

    You can’t run from your sins

    Nunes: you are the cause of all my sorrows! Why are you doing this? WHY ME?!
    🐄:moo?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:26pm

    The state of California sincerely apologizes for sending this assclown to Congress instead of sticking him in a high-chair at the kiddie table.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 9:17pm

    Being linked to Devin Nunes is "defamation per se".

    Maybe Lev Parnas should hire a reputation attorney.

    On the other hand, truth is an absolute defense to "defamation per se," just as it is to other forms of defamation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 9:25pm

    CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable.

    Ah, projection. Always a classic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobob, 4 Dec 2019 @ 10:27pm

    There seems be no extent to which Nunes won't go to be the high minded butt of self ridicule. He should focus more on Jim Baker's suggestion of lawyering up for the investigation in which he is likely to be one of the guests of honor, instead of working diligintly to alienate himself even more than he already has with these frivolous lawsuits (that his attorney should be sanctioned for filing).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 8:08am

    Follow the money...

    Any bets that someone like Peter Thiel is the money behind Nunes' debacles? There is nothing too slimy for Thiel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 8:23am

    Any bets that someone like Peter Thiel is the money behind Nunes' debacles? There is nothing too slimy for Thiel.

    While certainly possible, we haven't seen anything to indicate that is probable yet. How much have these lawsuits really cost Nunes to this point? Filing fees and a few hours of his atttorneys time.

    The purpose of SLAPP lawsuits is not to litigate, but to make the defendant submit out of fear of how much it could cost them. Nunes, for the most part, has tried to avoid lawsuits in states with decent anti-SLAPP laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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