Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) saw some movement in two of the three lawsuits he’s filed this week.
Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter, a Republican strategist and some troll Twitter accounts saw its first day in court Friday. As soon as both Twitter and the GOP consultant Liz Mair were served the $250 million lawsuit, both filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the location of the filing — Virginia — was absurd. Not only is it against Twitter user policy to sue the company in any state other than California, but both Twitter and Nunes are based in California. Critics believe that Nunes pointedly chose Virginia for his filing because of the state’s lax anti-SLAPP laws, which allow for the quick dismissals of cases that involve speech on issues that are of public concern.
It’ll be at least a week before we know how the judge overseeing this case would like to proceed, according to reporting by the Fresno Bee. Judge John Marshall did not discuss the merit of the suit during the hearing on Friday, just whether it was being brought in the proper venue. Marshall reportedly told the court that he would have a decision in seven to 10 days.
He reportedly mulled whether Mair had any standing to change the venue of the lawsuit because she lived in Virginia and likely sent the tweets while in that jurisdiction. Mair’s attorneys argued that the case should be moved to California because that’s where the alleged harm against Nunes occurred.
Nunes’ allegations in this case are muddy and most experts agree that he has no ground to stand on in a defamation case given his status as a sitting lawmaker. Nunes alleges that Twitter conspired with Mair, along with two troll accounts named after his “mom” and his “cow,” to relentlessly attack him on Twitter in the months leading up to the 2018 election, when he barely eked out a win against a Democratic challenger who had never run for public office before. Nunes is also using the lawsuit to bolster his unsubstantiated claims of “shadow banning” of conservatives on the platform.
If the case is allowed to go forward, Nunes will likely push for a striking number of discovery requests including information about any time a Twitter employee called anyone in Virginia, information related to the troll accounts @DevinCow and @DevinNunesMom and Mair’s past three years of tax returns.
According to the Fresno Bee, none of the Twitter suit defendants showed up on Friday, but several lawyers for Twitter and Mair were in attendance, as well as at least 20 people wearing cow paraphernalia. (The @DevinCow account has garnered a significant following since he first filed this suit this spring, and it’s become a mammoth fundraising mechanism for Democrats running against Nunes). Nunes himself did not show up to the hearing as Breitbart reported he would last week. He was represented by his lawyer Steven Biss.
There are about 20 people in the courtroom that are supporting @DevinCow, with shirts cow stuffed animals and cow ears. No Nunes, despite Breitbart reports that he should be here.
— Kate Irby (@kateirby) August 23, 2019
As for the suit he filed against his hometown newspaper, Nunes finally served McClatchy this week, McClatchy’s lawyer Ted Boutrous told TPM on Thursday. This came four months after he initially filed the lawsuit against the publisher of the Fresno Bee. As Boutrous has previously told TPM, the company intends to argue first against the location of the lawsuit as well, given both McClatchy and Nunes are based in California.
“We plan to move to dismiss this utterly baseless lawsuit that has no basis in law or fact and no basis for jurisdiction in Virginia over McClatchy,” he said.
In this lawsuit, Nunes essentially argues that the Fresno Bee coordinated with Mair to publish a story that tied him to an incident involving cocaine, prostitution and a yacht that was linked to a winery he invests in.
While experts and defendants speculate that Nunes believes the suits will help with his fundraising efforts for 2020 — and they have — the PR move could backfire. Nunes’ more popular Democratic opponent back home, Phil Arballo has already used Nunes’ third and latest lawsuit against his actual constituents — who called him a fake farmer — to bolster his own campaign. Earlier this month, Arballo offered to help fundraise for the constituents being sued and on Friday, the Democratic challenger released a new ad campaign telling Nunes to sue him instead of the constituents, which include a farmer and a librarian. Arballo also launched a new website: www.DevinNunesIsAFakeFarmer.com.