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Nunes Lawsuits Seek to Uncover Scheme to Interfere with His Clinton, Russia Investigations

Rep. Devin Nunes attends a meeting of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, in March 2017
AFP/Nicholas Kamm
KRISTINA WONG

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Monday launched another defamation lawsuit against actors publishing derogatory claims against him, this time suing the McClatchy media company for $150,000.

The move, similar to his first defamation lawsuit filed last month against Twitter and individual Twitter accounts, received widespread mocking from critics on social media and mainstream media journalists who claimed Nunes was being thin-skinned.

However, the lawsuits appear to be aimed not so much at stopping attacks against him, but at uncovering an alleged scheme to interfere with his investigations into the Clinton campaign and how the Russian collusion hoax began.

“The attacks on Nunes were pre-planned, calculated, orchestrated and undertaken by multiple individuals acting in concert, over a continuous period of time throughout 2018. The full scope of the conspiracy, including the names of all participants and the level of involvement of any agents or instrumentalities of foreign governments, is unknown at this time and will be the subject of discovery in this action,” Nunes’ lawsuit complaint said.

The complaint said:

Throughout 2018, McClatchy and its reporter, MacKenzie Mays, acting in concert with a Virginia political operative and her handlers, schemed to defame Plaintiff and destroy his reputation. The central purpose of the scheme was to interfere with Plaintiff’s Congressional investigation of corruption by the Clinton campaign and alleged “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

Using the enormous power of McClatchy’s nation-wide resources, McClatchy and its co-conspirators relentlessly attacked Plaintiff both in print and digitally – falsely and maliciously accusing Plaintiff of horrible crimes and improprieties, falsely attributing to him knowledge he did not have, implying that he was involved with cocaine and underage prostitutes, and imputing to Plaintiff dishonesty, unethical behavior, lack of integrity, and an unfitness to serve as a United States Congressman.

The complaint highlighted a report by Mays in May 2018, about a lawsuit where a server sued a winery that had auctioned off the use of a yacht for a day for a charity fundraiser in 2015 to a third party. The server, who was working on the yacht while it was being used by the third party, alleged she witnessed cocaine use and sexual acts with prostitutes.

The incident had nothing to do with Nunes, except that the winery owner was a college friend of Nunes, and Nunes had invested money into the winery. Nonetheless, Nunes’ name was mentioned in the headline and more than a dozen times throughout the story.

A footnote in the complaint mentions another McClatchy piece by reporters Peter Stone and Greg Gordon on April 13, 2018, alleging former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had visited Prague as part of a Russian collusion conspiracy, which, if true, would have confirmed a key claim in the Democrat-funded “pee dossier” against the Trump campaign.

McClatchy remained the only outlet to report this particular claim, and Cohen himself denied it while testifying to Congress under oath earlier this year. In addition, Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month did not establish any collusion, conspiracy, or coordination between Russia and any member of the Trump campaign.

Nunes’ complaint mentioned a follow-up McClatchy report which claimed that Cohen’s cell phone had sent signals off cell towers in the Prague vicinity. “Once again, no other media outlet could confirm the McClatchy story, which, like the previous story, was thoroughly contradicted by both Mueller’s Cohen indictment and Mueller’s final Report,” the complaint said.

The complaint also questioned the timing of the yacht story’s publication on May 23, 2018, just weeks before Nunes faced a June 5, 2018, primary. The complaint also notes that the yacht incident happened in 2015, and was covered by the publication Wine Business in 2016. “The story was not ‘news’ in 2018,” the footnote said. 

In both of Nunes’ lawsuits against Twitter and individual accounts and McClatchy, defendant Liz Mair is included. The recent complaint described her as a “political operative and a digital terrorist for-hire,” and alleged that she worked with McClatchy to publish defamatory reports against Nunes.

“Her job on behalf of her benefactors is to target the opposition, carry out smear campaigns in coordination with third-parties in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States, and, in the process, to create extreme negative publicity for the targets, in this case Plaintiff,” it said.

The complaint alleged that Mair founded a super PAC in December 2015 called “Make America Awesome” whose sole purpose was to block President Trump’s ascent in politics by using “unconventional and cost-effective tactics.”

Mair is also the head of the anti-Trump group Swamp Accountability Project according to a July 18, 2018, McClatchy article by Kate Irby. The group paid for a video on September 19, 2018, that claimed, “Nunes is still entangled with a winery implicated in a scandal involving his co-investors, cocaine and child prostitutes.”

Mair herself is cited in several McClatchy stories, including the July 18, 2018, story that alleged Nunes used political donations to pay for nearly $15,000 in tickets to Boston Celtics basketball games, winery tours, and lavish trips to Las Vegas.

Mair has also tweeted about the yacht story numerous times, according to the complaint.

Nunes’ complaint states that the purpose of the “concerted defamation campaign was to cause immense pain, intimidate, interfere with and divert Nunes’ attention from his investigation of corruption and alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election.”

“The substance and timing of the publication of McClatchy’s online articles and the tweets, retweets, replies and likes by Mair and McClatchy reporters demonstrates that McClatchy and Mair were engaged in a joint effort, together and with others, to defame Nunes and interfere with his duties, employment and investigations of corruption as a United States Congressman,” it said.

Nunes said last month in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News that his lawsuit against Twitter was the “first of many.”

“There’s no other option than to take them to court. It’s not what I want to do, but I don’t have any other options. And nobody has any other options, and I’m the one who’s in the best position to do it because I’m one of the more high-profile people who’ve been defamed,” he said.

“They’re allowing people to be either using their real names, or fake names, and defame me on Twitter,” he said. “I mean, this is, accusing me of multiple federal crimes over, for almost two years. Really, over two years.”

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