Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), due to his status as a Republican leader and ally of former President Donald Trump, has repeatedly been attacked by numerous mainstream media outlets, such as The Washington Post, at times in false and seemingly defamatory ways.
In response, Nunes filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post over false statements published in an article, and a federal judge just allowed that suit to proceed by rejecting a motion to dismiss from the left-leaning media outlet, Breitbart reported.
The decision means the legal challenge can now move to the discovery phase, during which the high-ranking GOP congressman can gain access to the Post’s internal documents and emails, and even depose certain employees, in relation to the inaccurate statements the newspaper allegedly made about him.
The lies and the lawsuit
Central to the defamation lawsuit is a Washington Post article from November 2020 by reporter Ellen Nakashima about a former Nunes aide — Michael Ellis — who gained employment in Trump’s White House. The article made at least two clearly false statements about Nunes himself that resulted in the lawsuit and were later corrected, albeit not in a manner deemed satisfactory to the congressman.
The first of those challenged claims was one that attributed to Nunes the “baseless” belief — initially expressed in a tweet by Trump — that the Obama administration had spied on Trump Tower. The second claim involves an alleged covert “midnight run” to the White House to surreptitiously view intelligence documents in support of the espionage claim.
Except, Nunes asserts that not only are both of those claims false but that both Nakashima and the Post were well aware of the inaccuracies and decided to proceed with publishing them regardless.
As such, Nunes filed a defamation lawsuit against the Post claiming that the outlet and reporter had acted with “actual malice” against him and a “reckless disregard for the truth” in a purposeful effort to damage his reputation and political career.
His complaint went on to provide examples proving that he had never expressed a belief that the Obama administration had spied on Trump Tower — in fact, he had repeatedly stated the opposite — as well as that his visit to the White House to review intelligence documents had occurred during the day with nothing surreptitious about it at all.
D.C. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, in an 18-page opinion issued Wednesday, rejected the motion to dismiss that the Post had filed in opposition to the Nunes lawsuit.
The judge seemed to agree with Nunes that the statements made in the article were “materially false” but was less certain if that falsity rose to the level of “actual malice” that Nunes, as a public figure, was required to prove.
That said, and pointing to the paper’s own prior reporting on the subject that was inconsistent with the claims in question, Nichols concluded that “the Post published its article with at least reckless disregard of the truth that it had previously reported.”
As noted, the suit will now proceed to the next phase toward the ultimate goal sought by Nunes — compensatory and punitive damages, plus interest, as well as an injunction barring the Post from ever repeating the false claims about the congressman again.