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Nunes’s Defamation Suit Against Washington Post to Continue

August 13, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Rep. Devin Nunes

WASHINGTON — A lawsuit by Rep. Devin Nunes against The Washington Post for defamation is proceeding after a judge this week declined to dismiss it.

The Post reported that Nunes accused the Obama administration of spying on Trump Tower in New York City.

Nunes, R-Calif., denies the allegation, which was reported by Washington Post national security reporter Ellen Nakashima.

The lawsuit is one of several legal actions that linger in the aftermath of the Trump administration, one of which could ensnare the former president in a dispute over his tax filings.

In a Nov. 9, 2020 report, The Post wrote that Nunes “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.”

A second story said Nunes saw the intelligence file “reportedly late at night, earning the episode the nickname ‘the midnight run.’”

The true source of any allegations of Obama administration spying on Trump Tower began with a March 2017 tweet by then-President Donald Trump. It said that “Obama had [Trump’s] ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.”

Nunes, who is the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had expressed concern Trump might have been swept up in surveillance of foreign nationals during the FBI investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election. However, Nunes never claimed Trump Tower was wiretapped.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols dismissed Nunes’ claim for negligence but not for defamation. Negligence claims by public officials against the news media generally are not allowed on First Amendment freedom of the press grounds.

On the defamation claim, Nichols’ ruling says, “A reasonable juror could … conclude that the article was materially false because it stated that Nunes had made … a baseless claim (when he had not).”

The case is Nunes v. WP Company LLC, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 1:21-cv-00506 (CJN).

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