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Democratic challenger taunts congressman as ‘Devin Nunes’ Cow’ hearing starts

‘Devin, if you want to sue someone, sue me,’ Phil Arballo says in digital ad

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., plans to release interview transcripts from the House Russia probe by the midterm elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., plans to release interview transcripts from the House Russia probe by the midterm elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A Democratic challenger to Rep. Devin Nunes released a digital ad Friday taunting the California Republican for the string of lawsuits he has launched against his perceived political enemies, including parody Twitter accounts. 

The campaign unveiled the ad to coincide with Nunes reporting to court in his lawsuit against two parody accounts pretending to be his mom and a fictional cow on Twitter, according to a spokesman for Democrat Phil Arballo.

[Rep. Devin Nunes says he’s suing Twitter, parody account pretending to be his mom]

“Devin, if you want to sue someone, sue me,” Arballo says in the spot

The small ad buy will target 100,000 swing voters in the 22nd District. 

Nunes’ efforts to quash criticism have often been undermined by his own legal maneuvering, amplifying the profiles of his targets. 

The legal complaint against Twitter sent Nunes surging to the top of the site’s trending topics and drew the ridicule of late-night television hosts.

The account @DevinCow has accrued hundreds of thousands of followers since news of Nunes’ lawsuit broke. The account had just 1,204 followers when the congressman filed the complaint. The account has since grown to nearly 615,000 followers as of Friday morning, about 50,000 more than Nunes’ following.

Nunes appears on a list of 38 Republicans that House Democrats’ campaign operation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, plans to target. Though Nunes faced an unusually competitive election in 2018, registered Republicans outnumbered registered Democrats in the Central Valley district by 8 percentage points last year, according to the Fresno Bee.

The hearing got underway in a Virginia district court Friday morning.

The giant social media platform and the parody accounts, along with a Republican political operative, conspired in a “vicious defamation campaign,” Nunes, who seeks $250 million, will argue.

The accounts criticized Nunes for leveraging his position on the House Intelligence Committee to deflect from investigations into President Donald Trump and foreign election interference. But the accounts also made lewd and baseless allegations, including tweets depicting Nunes as a cocaine addict, as having a sexually transmitted disease and as having “engaged in sexual acts with the president.”

As an elected official, Nunes must meet a high legal standard to prove defamation. 

[Rep. Devin Nunes accuses retired farmer of conspiring against him in legal complaint]

The lawsuit also names the Republican political operative Liz Mair as working with the parody accounts as well as making defamatory statements about Nunes from her personal account. Mair describes her services on LinkedIn this way: “We anonymously smear our clients’ opponents on the internet.”

Nunes also alleges Twitter demoted his reach on the platform, which he describes as having been “shadow banned.”

The hearing marks the first in a trio of lawsuits Nunes has brought against entities he has cast as his political enemies, including McClatchy, the owner of the Fresno Bee, citing its critical reporting of him, and a retired farmer in his district who petitioned to remove “farmer” from Nunes’ ballot designation last year.

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