The McClatchy Company, a news media company that is being sued for defamation by House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA), moved to dismiss the lawsuit in court on Wednesday, but the judge in the case rejected the request — an interim win for Nunes.
McClatchy filed a motion to dismiss Nunes’ complaint, which was filed in Virginia’s Sixteenth Judicial Court, arguing that the Delaware-based company does not fall under the jurisdiction of Virginia because it has no significant business in the state.
However, Judge Cheryl V. Higgins did not grant McClatchy’s motion to dismiss the case but has granted Nunes discovery on the question. That means that McClatchy must prove that it does not have significant ties to Virginia by answering questions and providing information on assertions from Nunes. Higgins said the court may have to hear witness testimony on the question as well.
Higgins’ ruling on Wednesday marks a limited ruling in favor of Nunes.
The Republican lawmaker filed defamation lawsuits against news outlets and journalists including McClatchy, CNN, Esquire, and leftwing journalist Ryan Lizza, whose pieces targeted Nunes as he investigated Democrats’ involvement in the Russia collusion hoax.
Nunes is also suing Fusion GPS — the firm Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid to author the “pee-dossier” that gave birth to the Russia collusion hoax, never-Trump GOP operative Liz Mair, Twitter, the leftwing interest group Campaign for Accountability, and others.
Nunes’ complaint against Twitter cited the social media company’s practice of “shadow-banning” conservatives — including Nunes — in order to influence the 2018 elections, censorship of opposing viewpoints, and ignoring lawful complaints of repeated abusive behavior.
The complaint also accused Twitter of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory – providing both a voice and financial incentive to the defamers – thereby facilitating defamation on its platform.” For example, Mair has published tweets that falsely implied Nunes colluded with prostitutes and cocaine addicts, does cocaine, and that he was involved in a “Russian money laundering front.”
Nunes’ complaint against McClatchy cites a report by MacKenzie Mays in May 2018 about a server who sued a winery that was owned by a college friend of Nunes’. The winery had auctioned off the use of a yacht in a charity fundraiser in 2015 to a third party, and the server alleged she witnessed the use of cocaine and prostitutes by the third party.
Despite the incident having nothing to do with Nunes, his name was mentioned in the headline and more than a dozen times throughout the story.
The complaint also cited another piece by McClatchy’s 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 “pee dossier.”
McClatchy remained the only outlet to report this particular claim, and Cohen himself denied it while testifying to Congress under oath this year. In addition, Special Counsel Robert Mueller last year did not establish any collusion, conspiracy, or coordination between Russia and any member of the Trump campaign.
Nunes filed a lawsuit against CNN after it falsely reported that Nunes took a secret trip to Vienna and met there with Victor Shokin, a former Ukrainian prosecutor general, when Nunes was actually at the time in Benghazi, Libya, and then in Malta, loading remains of a soldier from World War II to bring home to the United States.
“Shortly after that story went out, we gave a very clear denial — actually to Breitbart — we gave a very clear, long statement saying there was no truth to it, whatsoever. Within hours, and even that night, we said if there isn’t an apology and this isn’t dealt with quickly, we’re going to see you in federal court,” Nunes said.
Wednesday’s ruling is another recent positive development for Nunes, against entities that have responded with what appears to be a strategy of stalling tactics, requests to dismiss, and avoiding discovery at all costs on the substance of Nunes’ lawsuits. A judge also recently rejected Twitter’s motion to dismiss Nunes’ complaint.