GOP Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.) has filed a defamation suit against CNN, seeking $435 million in damages over an "exclusive" story the outlet published alleging the congressman met overseas with former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin "to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden."
What are the details?
The Washington Times first reported on the lawsuit Tuesday, quoting the complaint as saying "Devin Nunes has never met Viktor Shokin. This meeting never took place. Viktor Shokin doesn't know and hasn't even heard of Devin Nunes."
CNN's cited source for the piece was the lawyer for Lev Parnas — an associate of President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Parnas, a soviet-born American citizen, was charged in October with four counts of campaign finance law violations. He pleaded not guilty.
"It was obvious to everyone — including disgraceful CNN — that Parnas was a fraudster and a hustler," Nunes's lawsuit states. "It was obvious that his lies were part of a thinly-veiled attempt to obstruct justice and to trick either the United States Attorney or House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) into offering 'immunity' in return for 'information' about Plaintiff — a prominent United States Congressman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee."
The Hill pointed out that "CNN's article did not independently verify or disprove the claims made by Parnas's attorney." The Washington Examiner reported that CNN stands by its written story, and argued, "CNN will have a more serious problem" with its television reporting, where the outlet presented the Parnas allegations as fact.
Nunes's lawsuit further states, "Devin Nunes did not communicate with Parnas in December 2018," adding, "CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable."
The same Parnas attorney, Joseph Bondy, who CNN cited as its source, publicly called out Nunes on Tuesday after Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee — on which Nunes is the ranking member — released phone records along with its impeachment report on President Trump showing Nunes spoke with Parnas a number of times.
"Devin Nunes, you should recuse yourself at the outset of the #HIC #ImpeachmentHearings," Bondy tweeted, adding the hashtag, "LetLevSpeak."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) defended Nunes during a press conference on Tuesday, telling reporters, "I don't have a problem with Devin talking to individuals. What was claimed about Devin on CNN, on a national news media, is that he went to Vienna to meet with individuals."
"He was not in Vienna," McCarthy continued. "That was a lie, just like many lies before, and it seems like a perpetual thing of what he do," he added, speaking of Republicans' repeated pushback against the media.