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.
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? pic.twitter.com/ebvpxp9R85
— Asher Langton (@AsherLangton) December 3, 2019
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:
Discovery, baby! https://t.co/tdCNKBHwl5
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) December 4, 2019
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, virginiaCompanies: cnn