Court Gives Trump Ally Devin Nunes Partial Victory in Libel Suit

Court Gives Trump Ally Devin Nunes Partial Victory in Libel Suit

While rejecting most of California Rep. ’ libel suit against former Esquire magazine reporter , a federal appeals court did revive one of Nunes’ defamation claims. 

The judges ruled that Lizza retweeting the story, despite obviously knowing about the suit against him, was “suggestive enough to render it plausible that [he], at that point, engaged in ‘the purposeful avoidance of the truth.'”

POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein explains:

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a lower court judge correctly sided with reporter Ryan Lizza over the 2018 Esquire article, “Milking the System,” about how members of Nunes’ family quietly moved their farming operations to Iowa. However, the three-judge panel said that when Lizza tweeted out a link to the story late the following year, he essentially republished the story after Nunes (R-Calif.) had filed suit over it, rejecting what he said was an implication that the Iowa farm employed undocumented immigrants.

“The complaint here adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article,” Judge Steven Colloton wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Lavenski Smith and Ralph Erickson. “Lizza tweeted the article in November 2019 after Nunes filed this lawsuit and denied the article’s implication. The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in ‘the purposeful avoidance of the truth.'”

Colloton acknowledged that other courts have ruled that merely posting a new link to an old story doesn’t necessarily constitute republishing it, but he said those decisions didn’t foreclose the possibility it could sometimes be a republication.

Nunes’ suit against Lizza and Esquire’s publisher, Hearst Magazine Media, was one of a flurry of defamation cases he filed in 2019 against reporters, media entities and others, arguing that he was being trashed because of his support for President Donald Trump in ongoing investigations of Trump’s ties to Russia. Many of the cases have been dropped or dismissed.