Devin Nunes Files Another SLAPP Suit; Sues The Washington Post Again

from the suppressing-speech dept

Devin Nunes is one of the most vocal supporters of Parler, regularly insisting that he supports Parler because Parler supports free speech (of course, as we've highlighted, Parler blocks users quite frequently, contrary to its marketing claims). Of course, Nunes is a free speech hypocrite. As we've highlighted over the last few years, he seems to have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to suing the media and various critics for their free speech, in a variety of SLAPP lawsuits -- with no clear answer yet on who is actually paying for these lawsuits designed to stifle and suppress free speech.

Earlier this year, Nunes sued the Washington Post and reporter Shane Harris in the Eastern District of Virginia. That case was was transferred to the federal district court in DC where it continues to move forward (slowly). Now Nunes, with his regular lawyer Steven Biss, have sued the Washington Post yet again, this time with reporter Ellen Nakashima. Once again, it was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, meaning that the Washington Post is likely to go through the same process again to try to transfer the case to the DC court.

Like so many Nunes/Biss SLAPP suits, this one is... bad. At issue is the news from right after the election that a Trump loyalist and former Nunes staffer had been made the NSA's General Counsel apparently over the objections of the NSA's own director. This has raised a bunch of alarms for a variety of reasons -- and is seen as evidence that for all of the bullshit talk of "the deep state" being out to get Trump, he's spending his last couple months in office trying to construct his own deep state.

It was Ellen Nakashima at the Washington Post who broke the story of the Ellis appointment, and that's the article that Nunes is now suing over. The lawsuit -- somewhat laughably -- argues that two sentences in the article are defamatory. Neither are defamatory. These are the two sentences:

“In March 2017, [Michael Ellis] 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”

“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.’ [Three White House officials tied to sharing of intelligence files with Devin Nunes]

The filing nitpicks at both of these statements, but has a difficult time alleging false statements of fact, which is kind of necessary for there to be defamation. For example, with that second statement while the WaPo article talks about the alleged midnight run, Nunes first says it "never happened." But then almost immediately admits that he did, in fact, go to the White House -- it just wasn't at night. Whether or not the meeting was at night or "when the sun was out," as Nunes claims, is not defamatory. Even more to the point, the WaPo article highlights that its citing "news reports" and that the nighttime aspect of the meeting was "reportedly" what happened, and noting (accurately) that others have referred to this as "the midnight run." In other words, the article appropriately hedged those points and highlighted that it was covering what others were saying.

And then there's this: even though the Washington Post was basing this statement on "news reports" Biss/Nunes tries to argue that those news reports somehow don't count, because they were from the NY Times which is "well-known for spreading false statements." I kid you not.

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.

This is conspiracy theory fan fiction masquerading as a lawsuit.

There is basically no attempt to get over the actual malice standard necessary for any of this to be defamation of a public figure. The complaint tries to twist some minor potential inaccuracies into evidence of knowledge that the statements were false, but that is not at all supported by the complaint. It argues, ridiculously, that she should have known certain statements from Rep. Adam Schiff should not be trusted because Schiff and his staff "had an axe to grind against Plaintiff and a reason to lie." What? That is not at all how the actual malice standard works.

This is yet another ridiculously weak complaint that is hard to see as anything other than yet another nuisance SLAPP suit from an incredibly thin-skinned Devin Nunes who has now sued multiple media outlets and reporters (not to mention a satirical cow). For all his talk about supporting free speech and being against the suppression of speech, these lawsuits suggest that no one in Congress is more engaged in the blatant suppression of speech than Devin Nunes.

Once again, these kinds of intimidation tactics by lawsuit are exactly why we need a federal anti-SLAPP law (and why Virginia needs to get its act together early next year and pass the anti-SLAPP bill it almost passed earlier this year).

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, defamation, devin nunes, ellen nakashima, free speech, slapp, steven biss, virginia
Companies: washington post


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 3:27pm

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

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 3:27pm

    Forget about Nunes for a moment.

    What does his Cow have to say?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 3:47pm

    Seeing as this is mostly an urbanized community, are we going to be able to continue avoiding a stampede of midnight cow-tipping jokes?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 3:55pm

    Thanks for the reminder scum in a suit

    Not like the public needed to be reminded what a grossly dishonest hypocrite, liar, and enemy of the first amendment Nunes is, but I suppose much like the Dear Leader he gets antsy when people aren't paying attention to him.

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

  • identicon
    Alpha Lupi, 18 Nov 2020 @ 4:08pm

    Devin Nunes

    "This is conspiracy theory fan fiction masquerading as a lawsuit."
    It's shocking to see a man's entire existence reduced to a single sentence, but if Nunes is looking to sue someone over it, the only place he's got to look is a mirror.

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

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:08pm

    Come watch the bullshit artist at work!

    For his next trick, he’ll sue Michael Ellis for some reason.

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

  • identicon
    Owen, 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:17pm

    Defamation? Libel? Slander?

    What about Nunes' own statements: ...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. Would any of that cross the threshold for defamation/libel/slander? Could/should NYT and/or its reporters countersue (in WVA) Nunes? That would be hilarious (but on the downside, would probably encourage his antics, so maybe not the best idea)...

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

  • icon
    danderbandit (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:31pm

    I wish WaPo would go to trial and defend the case, not get it dismissed as a SLAPP suit. They have got the $$$ to handle it and it would be worth it to see an idiot like Nunes get slapped down with an actual decision against him. And attorney fees and maybe a fine for a frivolous lawsuit? Would make a nice Christmas present!

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:38pm

      Nunes likely wants an out-of-court settlement more than he wants a trial. A trial means discovery, after all. And Nunes strikes me as the kind of lowlife asshole who would do anything he can to avoid letting WaPo (or any of the other people targeted by his lawsuits) dig around in his life.

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

      • icon
        Norahc (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 7:25pm

        Re:

        That would mean Nunes has a slight whiff of intelligence and a merest chance of a self protection instinct. Nope...not buying that one bit.

        Seems more likely whoever is bankrolling these lawsuits wants to avoid discovery at all costs.

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 8:47pm

      Re:

      I wish WaPo would go to trial and defend the case, not get it dismissed as a SLAPP suit. [...] maybe a fine for a frivolous lawsuit?

      ...they should go it to trial and treated as a legitimate lawsuit...instead of having it dismissed as a frivolous lawsuit...so that they can get a determination that it's a frivolous lawsuit?

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

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 22 Nov 2020 @ 12:37am

      Re: [sanctions]

      And attorney fees and maybe a fine for a frivolous lawsuit?

      Normally, in the U.S. tort claims do not bring legal fees. See Arcambel v. Wiseman, 3 U.S. 306 (1796). Depending on your state's offer of judgment statute, your milage may vary.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 8:37pm

    Remember when we didn't elect thin skinned assholes?

    Every one of his lolsuits has been laughable, yet for some reason the courts seem unwilling to just benchslap this idiot, his lawyer, and who ever the fsck is paying the bills for this bs.
    Its wasting the courts time, it is allowing a sitting member of Congress to spin an 'alternative view" of events (Read as HE IS FUCKING LYING ALL THE TIME).

    I miss when political parties would horsewhip liars to make a point, but then we reelected people who supported 'Mall Food Court' Moore coming back to power.

    I miss civics

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

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 8:44pm

    Do we have a runner-up?

    .... these lawsuits suggest that no one in Congress is more engaged in the blatant suppression of speech than Devin Nunes.

    Well, I nominate Josh Hawley for a mighty close second place hater of free speech. (Sources too numerous to identify and elaborate.)

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 19 Nov 2020 @ 12:17am

    Nunes for President!

    C'mon, he's as dumb as a Trump...

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 19 Nov 2020 @ 8:07am

    Seeing that Nunes loves bad lawsuits, I'm surprised he doesn't try Harder.

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


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