Oh, this is going to be fun.
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the thin-skinned dairy farmer who has filed defamation lawsuits against the Washington Post, CNN, Hearst, NBC, McClatchy and someone pretending to be his cow on Twitter, is quitting Congress to run former President Trump’s new social media company.
“Recently,” wrote the man who co-sponsored the “Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act, “I was presented with a new opportunity to fight for the most important issues I believe in.”
What might those be? He didn’t bother to say.
My guess is there are only two: 1) the restoration of the Trump administration; and 2) maintaining employment, since he may be redistricted out of his comfortable Republican seat and actually have to work for votes, something he has not had to do much in recent years.
“You are more likely to be sued by Devin than see him at a town hall,” Andrew Janz, his 2018 Democratic challenger, once told me. Nunes has not held a town hall for more than a decade. When he is home in his district, which includes parts of Tulare and Fresno counties, he appears on the radio with right-wing talk show host Ray Appleton, or makes private appearances before friendly audiences.
The Trump company’s primary venture will be a Twitter-like platform called Truth Social, which, according to its website, aspires to be “America’s ‘Big Tent’ social media platform that encourages an open, free and honest global conversation without discriminating against political ideology.” You know, just like Trump did when he was in office.
Tim Miller, a GOP strategist and fierce Trump critic, noted that if Republicans win back the House in 2022, Nunes was forsaking the chance to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee just so he could run “Friendster for bigots.”
Now, it may seem odd to put a man with no real corporate experience in charge of a company that claims to have raised a billion dollars from unnamed investors and is already under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. But inexperience has never been a hurdle on Planet Trump.
After all, he came very close to putting his daughter Ivanka, a onetime model and handbag purveyor, in charge of the World Bank.
He charged his son-in-law, Jared Kushner with overseeing the U.S.-Mexico border wall, managing the country’s medical stockpile in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and finding peace in the Middle East. Kushner’s stunning success in executing his portfolio — not! — should put to rest any notion that Trump prizes competence above loyalty.
Nunes, whose qualifications for a top media job include refusing to speak to reporters who do not work for Fox News and an unfailingly poor grasp of the 1st Amendment, is merely formalizing the employment arrangement he has had with Trump for years: chief lackey.
After a promising start as a rational, moderate Republican who denigrated tea party extremists as “lemmings in suicide vests,” Nunes discovered his inner rodent.
He spent most of the Trump years aiding and abetting the president’s impeachment-worthy shenanigans. Most famously, he repeatedly slammed “as a hoax” Russia’s well-documented efforts to help Trump’s 2016 campaign and stepped down as head of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russian interference inquiry because, in his zeal to defend Trump and undermine the FBI, he was accused of revealing classified information obtained during his infamous “midnight run” to the White House. (He was cleared after an ethics investigation.)
In 2019, during the first successful Trump impeachment, Nunes and his fellow future Medal of Freedom recipient, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, attempted to turn the proceedings into a clown show as they tried in vain to distract the world from Trump’s scandalous behavior by attacking Democrats.
Nunes, in particular, became obsessed with Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic political staffer he falsely accused of working with Ukrainian Embassy officials “to spread dirt on the Trump campaign.” (And then I became obsessed with his obsession because “chalupa” is also a Mexican snack popularized in the U.S. by Taco Bell. But I digress.)
For my “Irony is Dead” file, which I began compiling as soon as Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign, I will be watching to see how Trump and Nunes talk about their bête noire, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law shields websites from being held liable for what users post. It has been called “the most important law protecting free speech online.” (For the record, my first entry dates to Oct. 17, 2016, when Trump promised to “drain the swamp.”)
Naturally, Trump abhorred it because it meant he couldn’t sue any social media companies, which kicked him off their platforms after he encouraged the Jan. 6 insurrection amid efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
I am sure Nunes realizes that Trump is a litigious executive with a record of stiffing creditors, and that he is going to work for a guy whose post-presidency blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” flamed out after a month because no one read it.
Good luck, Devin. You’re going to need it.
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