After facing several several legal setbacks in his effort to hold leftist media and social-media sites accountable for false reporting, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., received a small but significant victory in a libel lawsuit against the Washington Post.
A Washington, DC-based district-court judge allowed discovery to proceed in a case contending that Post writer Ellen Nakashima may have acted with malice in a November 2020 article, reported Just the News’s John Solomon.
The “newspaper’s own prior (and correct) reporting that is inconsistent with its later (and incorrect) reporting could certainly give the paper reason to seriously doubt the truth of its later publication,” Judge Carl J. Nichols wrote in the court’s decision.
The article by Nakashima falsely suggested that Nunes had done the bidding of the Trump administration by backing an exaggerated—and nominally inaccurate—claim about domestic surveillance during the 2016 race.
The Post alleged that the then-chair of the House Intelligence Committee “was given access at the White House to intelligence files that Nunes believed would buttress his baseless claims of the Obama administration spying on Trump Tower.”
It also claimed that Nunes had made late-night visits to the White House to access its intelligence files, with the episode being dubbed “the midnight run.”
Although there was technically no warrant to wiretap then-candidate Donald Trump’s Manhattan residence, there was widespread surveillance of the Trump campaign via the secret warrants issued to spy on campaign adviser Carter Page and others.
Those warrants also authorized the FBI to secretly spy on anyone with whom Page had contact and anyone with whom those individuals had contact.
Nunes had expressed concern about the surveillance but had never directly claimed that there was a wiretap on Trump Tower, meaning his statements were not at all “baseless.”
He acknowledged having visited the White House, but he said he had done so during the daytime and that the Post details were presented in such a way to discredit and lampoon him.
“[A] reasonable juror could conclude that an elected official is ridiculous or unfit for office if he searched for evidence to support baseless claims,” said the judge.
The court decision noted that even the newspaper’s own prior reporting had made the distinction between what Nunes had said and what Trump alleged.
“As particularly relevant here, during this period, the Post published at least two articles
emphasizing that a meaningful difference separated Trump’s and Nunes’s positions,” said the ruling.
The decision allows the case to proceed, although it is unclear whether the scope of discovery might extend beyond the reporting of the specific article to shed light on other evidence of media malpractice.
It also makes no guarantee that the final disposition will favor the congressman.
“Later in this case, Nunes will have to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, even in light of the corrections the Post did issue, it published its statements with actual malice,” said the court’s ruling.
Nunes was instrumental in the efforts to uncover the Russia-collusion hoax, which was engineered as part of a coordinated effort between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama intelligence community, among others.
The process Nunes undertook to expose the left-wing lies was the subject of Lee Smith’s book The Plot Against the President and an eponymous documentary—in which Nunes, himself, figures prominently.
That, along with his role in countering current House Intel Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., during Trump’s first impeachment attempt, earned him derision in the leftist press, including several satire accounts on Twitter, which Nunes has sought unsuccessfully to have removed.
A Virginia judge dismissed a lawsuit from against Twitter last year, shortly after then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order asserting that social-media companies that curated their content according to political values should lose protections afforded them under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
That decision effectively neutralized the order and encouraged far-left Silicon Valley oligarchs to proceed with impunity during and after the Nov. 3 election.
In February, a New York judge dismissed—on procedural grounds—a $435 million lawsuit against CNN for a 2019 article alleging that he had been involved in efforts to dredge up dirt on Hunter Biden.
The defendants argued that Nunes had refused to cooperate in the report and had thus missed his opportunity to set the record straight.
The court ruled that Nunes had failed to request a retraction in a timely fashion or adequately state his claims.
Despite Nunes’s frustration, both leftist outlets—the Washington Post and CNN have been held to account in recent years for their false attacks on Trump supporters.
Nick Sandmann, a teenager who was defamed after being confronted by a left-wing activist on the National Mall, reportedly received settlements from both outlets for undisclosed sums after filing lawsuits for $250 million and $275 million, respectively.
Trump’s America First Policy Institute is currently waging a high-profile class-action lawsuit against Twitter, Google and Facebook over their inconsistent and politically biased censorship practices, arguing that they have become the de-facto propaganda arm of the Democrat-led government.