Devin Nunes dodged the yes or no question from a friendly Fox News interviewer about his involvement in Trump's Ukraine scandal. Instead, he threatened to sue CNN and The Daily Beast for reporting the allegations.
Nunes has been implicated in the same Trump/Giuliani Ukraine schemes he is in charge of investigating for Republicans
The reporting arose from the lawyers for Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Giuliani’s associates who is now under indictment and offering to cooperate with investigators. Unfortunately for Nunes, that cooperation purportedly includes evidence he is part of the same events the House Intelligence Committee, where he is the ranking member, is investigating in its impeachment hearings. Vox explains the new allegations:
In a report published Thursday, lawyer Ed MacMahon told the Daily Beast that Parnas “helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe” for Nunes during a congressional trip there last year. The next day, CNN advanced the story by reporting that according to another lawyer representing Parnas, Joseph Bondy, his client is willing to tell Congress that he helped arrange a meeting in Vienna between Nunes and disgraced former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin. (Shokin was pushed out as the country’s top prosecutor in May 2016 after then-Vice President Biden and other world leaders urged the Ukrainian government to do so, citing Shokin’s failure to curb corruption in the country. Shokin has since claimed, without evidence, that Biden’s real motivation was curbing an investigation into a company at which his son Hunter served as a board member.)
“Parnas says he worked to put Nunes in touch with Ukrainians who could help Nunes dig up dirt on Biden and Democrats in Ukraine, according to Bondy,” CNN reported — a revelation that, if true, indicates Nunes isn’t in a position to be an impartial broker as the top House Republican involved in impeachment hearings about Trump and Giuliani trying to leverage the Ukrainian government into announcing investigations aimed at discrediting Joe Biden.
Nunes never denied meeting with Shokin in Vienna
In Bartiromo’s opening question, she signaled her supportiveness:
BARTIROMO: First, let’s get to these attacks on you. There are a lot in the mainsteam media saying that you had meetings in Ukraine with the prosecutor, What do you say about this?
Bartiromo considerately didn't mention that Parnas alleges Nunes didn’t just meet with the former prosecutor, he did so to help Trump use Ukraine to dig up political dirt on his opponents.
In his crafty reply, Nunes never denied that he met with Shokin in Ukraine.
NUNES: Well, I’ve been used to this for the last three years. 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, what do they do? They go out to kill the messenger. So this week, another fake news story. The problem with this week’s fake news story is we actually caught them.
Nunes deflected by claiming that CNN and The Daily Beast had committed some kind of crime and that he was going to sue them:
NUNES: And we caught them badly and it also involves criminal activity and so what we’re going to do – I gave a statement out on Friday night, we are going to take both CNN and The Daily Beast, likely into federal court right after Thanksgiving. And we hope they cooperate because we’re also going to be working with the appropriate law enforcement authorities because it is not OK to work with someone who has been indicted on serious federal crimes to build a media narrative and dirty up a member of Congress.
So look, Maria, 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. So we hope that CNN and Daily Beast will cooperate with the court. They should comply with the subpoenas once we file this and go through for depositions.
Nunes offered no evidence either CNN or The Daily Beast were conspiring with Parnas. They reported what his lawyer said. Not that Bartiromo made that point. But she did ask, "Bottom line, were you in Vienna with Shokin?”
Did Nunes make an inadvertent admission at the beginning of his response? Regardless, he immediately began obfuscating – and dodging the question.
NUNES: Yeah, so look, Maria, I really want to answer all of these questions and I promise you I absolutely will come back on the show and answer these questions but because there is criminal activity here, we’re working with the appropriate law enforcement agencies, we’re going to fill all this, everyone’s gonna know the truth, everybody’s going to know all the facts, but I think you can understand that I can’t compete by trying to, trying to debate this out with the public media when 90% 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 gonna file in federal court because I’m not gonna sit here and try to compete against the media that I have no chance of winning [unintelligible]. I will win in court and they’ll have a chance to cooperate and they’ll have to show they worked with somebody who’s been indicted, which is likely conspiring to obstruct justice.
Bartiromo tried again. And Nunes again failed to deny he met with Shokin in Vienna.
BARTIROMO: ...[J]ust to be clear, you’re saying you’re suing CNN, you’re gonna sue Daily Beast. I know you’ve sued Twitter in the past. Do you think this is going somewhere? You’re telling me that CNN committed criminal activity.
NUNES: Well, it’s very likely. Or they’re an accessory to it, right? So none of this is true. That’s what I said, my statement is it’s demonstrably false. We’ll get to all the facts when it’s filed in court. So … they’re either witting or unwitting of listening to somebody who’s been indicted and not only that but it’s their lawyer. So you know, you’re talking about third and fourth hand hearsay to do what? To dirty up the leader of the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee that just destroyed their complete narrative -
NUNES: – that they’ve been pushing, this new Ukraine hoax they’ve been pushing for the last two months.
If the reporting is “demonstrably false,” why didn’t Nunes demonstrate that to lickspittle Bartiromo? As CNN’s John King noted, if Nunes did not go to Vienna, he could easily provide travel documents to prove it and force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to issue a statement declaring the reports false.
Nunes laughably pretends he doesn’t want to sue CNN or The Daily Beast
Not surprisingly, Bartiromo didn’t question why Nunes was not demonstrating what he claimed was so demonstrable. Instead, she murmured her agreement as Nunes said, with a straight face, “Look, the sad part is is I’m the last guy that wants to go into the courts but the media has become totally corrupt that now they’re willing to actually engaged in help with criminals, indicted criminals.”
Vox has the fact check:
Nunes, who in an ironic twist once co-sponsored the “Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act,” has a long history of filing frivolous lawsuits. He’s sued people who are mean to him online (including a parody Twitter account that goes by “Devin Nunes’ cow”), constituents who asked the state of California to not allow Nunes to identify himself as a “farmer” on the ballot, and publications for doing basic reporting on him. But even in that context, his latest threat against CNN and the Daily Beast is flimsy.
Nunes doubled down on his threats on Hannity last night. I’ll have more about that in a later post.
Meanwhile, watch Nunes’ non-denial denial below, in a video Fox News helpfully titled, "Nunes: We are going to take CNN and Daily Beast to court,” from the November 24, 2019 Sunday Morning Futures.
“Look Maria, before we offer you a contract, we’d just like to know whether you are really committed to this move. On CNBC, you cultivated the image of a hyperactive and somewhat zany (for CNBC) financial commentator without any overt political leanings. Are you sure you want to throw that all away?”
“Hey, big shot. You think I fell off the short bus here?Look at how many zeros I’m asking for. Integrity don’t come cheap!”
Devin is like the Mini Trump. A total bully who becomes a snowflake on the receiving end. Threatening lawsuits. A narcissist creating a false reality of Republicans trouncing Democrats during the Impeachment Hearings. And he turns reporting what a pair of lawyers and their client said – which occurs all the time (ask his buddy Roger Stone) – into a ‘criminal’ case. Oh, and we get the uncomfortable realities are “fake news” narrative and the poor, pitiful Devin is persecuted narrative. Sound like Trump whimpering ’no other pr^sident has been treated so rotten"?
Forget the bulls—t meter ringing loudly in Bartiromo’s ear over what Devin is saying. There’s so much he isn’t saying she’s ignoring as well. Dutiful MAGA sycophant Bartiromo sits there like a lump on a log refusing any follow-ups. It all ends up a deliberate exercise in gaslighting the audience with Nunes’ bizarre tales. I get the strong impression Bartiromo’s career is so washed up she’ll do anything to keep her Fox News gig.
I understand more evidence has come out. Apparently Devin spent over $50,000 of taxpayer money traveling overseas to pursue said dirt – more Mini Trump behavior. Of course, Mini Trump is doubling-down on he wishes to very, very – oh, so very, very – badly to talk about it (as badly as Trump wants to share his tax returns but can’t either?) but won’t. All that’s missing is Mini Trump boasting it was a ‘perfect’ trip. So ‘perfect’ a trip!
Maybe Ol’ Handsome himself could make legal moves over the implied slander/libel involved in Nosferatu’s ludicrous flailing…
Somehow, he’d like Fox News viewers to believe that his job on the committee is to look for “Democrat corruption”. That is NOT his job, and it is defamatory for him to say that it is. Next, he’d once again like to play the narrative that the GOP members’ behavior in constantly repeating conspiracy theory talking points somehow “destroyed” the actual work the committee has been doing regarding Pence’s childish spokesman and the president of Ukraine. As opposed to what everyone plainly saw in the hearings – that the GOP members embarrassed themselves and repeatedly had no answer when they were corrected by the witnesses. I did note that Nunes gloated about having used the GOP time in the hearings to play up those conspiracy theories and that he’s hoping to do more of that if he gets another chance. He noted that he’s had more public time to spread the smears, thanks to the Dems scheduling the hearings. Which of course goes right to the point we’ve already made – that the Right Wing has essentially used the hearing process to accomplish what they failed in their attempt to pressure the Ukrainians – they’ve been able to mainstream the Biden smears and confuse millions of Americans who haven’t read up on these materials.
I do find it interesting that angry Right Wingers seem to think that it’s a good idea to file these nuisance suits with giant price tags, when they were the ones accusing Americans of being too litigious. (As Ellen notes in this article) And yes, Nunes has a history of throwing these legal tantrums – including that cow suit. We saw the same thing with the despicable Sandmann lawsuits in Kentucky (which are barely being allowed to proceed to a limited discovery before they eventually peter out due to lack of real basis). And has anyone heard about how Eric Bolling is doing with that 50 million dollar lawsuit against Yashir Ali for having the temerity to report about Bolling’s own nasty behavior with the sexual harassment that got him fired from Fox News?
I also find it interesting that Nunes appears to be conflating civil and criminal litigation. In one breath, he says he’s going to file nuisance civil lawsuits against CNN and Daily Beast, which would likely be tossed out since CNN reached out to him for comment before publishing and he responded by sneering at them. In another breath, he seems to be saying he wants to file criminal charges against CNN – but he doesn’t say what those charges would be or why anyone should believe him about this. Essentially, this just sounds like him huffing and puffing and holding his breath to no effect.
If Nunes really has some major incriminating material here, he should stop making these bizarre threats and simply show what he has. Same thing with Giuliani and his supposed secret Biden file that he’s keeping in his safe for some reason. This kind of thing frankly gets tiring – it’s the same routine every time – these guys get caught behaving badly and their response is to threaten the people who had the temerity to expose it.
I’ll also note that while Nunes is talking about media players somehow breaking laws by talking to someone who’s been indicted or prosecuted, he’s leaving out the parts where Fox News has happily done multiple interviews with George Papadopoulos, and was only too happy to talk to Roger Stone until the judge in the latter case warned him to stop that.
At the same time, let’s keep in mind that Lev Parnas’ attorney has not only offered to have his client testify in front of Congress as to what he knows – he’s also turned over VIDEO AND AUDIO RECORDINGS of Giuliani and Trump discussing these activities. That’s the kind of thing that could have a significant impact – along the lines of the White House tapes during the Watergate investigation.
The more likely result coming from what we’re seeing here is that Nunes will be brought before the Ethics Committee in the House and required to explain himself. Most likely, he won’t be thrown out or forced to resign – but this situation could very well end his status as a committee chair or ranking member and could even lead to the GOP finding someone else to run for his spot next year. Given how serious this is for Nunes, it’s not a surprise to see him panicking in this way.