Allegations that have made Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California so angry he is vowing to sue media outlets that published them could become fodder for House Democrats to launch an ethics investigation into Nunes.
CNN reported Friday that Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, met with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Vienna last December. Its source for the story was Joseph Bondy, the attorney for indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who claimed he was told about the meeting by Shokin.
“Parnas says he worked to put Nunes in touch with Ukrainians who could help Nunes dig up dirt on [former Vice President Joe] Biden and Democrats in Ukraine, according to Bondy,” CNN reported.
On Saturday, MSNBC’s Joy Reid asked House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith whether that report was enough to trigger an ethics investigation of Nunes.
“Quite likely, without question,” the Washington state Democrat said.
“I do understand a piece of this is about Joe Biden, but the bigger thing is about what President [Donald] Trump and the Russians and all these people have been doing. This is a systematic problem that is a threat to the country because of what Russia is doing to democracy,” Smith said.
“This is not just the president committing a crime for himself,” he said. “He is undermining U.S. national security.”
.@RepAdamSmith: This isn’t really about #JoeBiden… What it is about is covering up what the Russians did in the first place and covering up the extent to which a whole lot of people… were in direct contact with the very Russians who were interfering in our election. #AMJoy pic.twitter.com/xqtt0aKymk
— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@amjoyshow) November 23, 2019
“These demonstrably false and scandalous stories published by the Daily Beast and CNN are the perfect example of defamation and reckless disregard for the truth,” Nunes said in a statement.
Libel law requires that for public figures such as Nunes, anything that is defamatory must be published with reckless disregard for the truth — in other words, knowing something was false but publishing it anyway.
“Some political operative offered these fake stories to at least five different media outlets before finding someone irresponsible enough to publish them. I look forward to prosecuting these cases, including the media outlets, as well as the sources of their fake stories, to the fullest extent of the law,” Nunes said. “I intend to hold the Daily Beast and CNN accountable for their actions. They will find themselves in court soon after Thanksgiving.”
He expanded upon his comments Sunday during an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” saying the upcoming lawsuit “should be fun.”
“I’ve been used to this for the last three years,” the congressman said. “The House Intelligence Committee Republicans, we continue to expose Democrat corruption over and over again. And what always happens is right when we expose them … they go out to kill the messenger.”
Nunes said the latest story crossed a line.
“So this week — another fake news story. The problem with this week’s fake news story is — we actually caught them. And we caught them badly and it also involves criminal activity. … We are going to take both CNN and The Daily Beast likely into federal court, right after Thanksgiving, and we hope they cooperate,” he said.
The congressman said the two liberal outlets were wrong in their conduct.
“It is not OK to work with someone who has been indicted on [a] serious federal crime, to build a media narrative and dirty up a member of Congress,” he said. “You’ve seen it, the American people have seen it over the last three years. We out them, and then they come out with a media narrative to try to dirty up the people who are doing the work on behalf of the American people.”
Nunes said he needs to keep his cards close to his vest for now because of the pending court case.
“I really want to answer all these questions,” he said. “But I think you can understand that I can’t compete by trying to debate this out with the public media when 90 percent of the media are totally corrupt. And because this is criminal in nature and because it’s so bad, it’s so slanderous — we’ve got all the facts on our side and we’re going to file in federal court, because I’m not going to sit here and try to compete against the media that I have no chance of winning this. I will win in court.”
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