Rep. Devin Nunes said on Saturday he plans to sue CNN and the Daily Beast for stories that accused him of meeting with a former Ukraine prosecutor in a hunt for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Mr. Nunes called “demonstrably false” an assertion from CNN’s source, an attorney for Soviet-born Lev Parnas, that the California Republican met with former chief Ukraine prosecutor Viktor Shokin in Vienna in 2018.
Mr. Parnas is living under house arrest at his Florida home after federal prosecutors charged him in New York with illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. political campaigns. He is represented by Manhattan attorney Joseph A. Bondy, who on Friday evening was cheered on via Twitter by indicted anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti.
A spokesman for Mr. Nunes released an official statement to The Washington Times:
“These demonstrably false and scandalous stories published by the Daily Beast and CNN are the perfect example of defamation and reckless disregard for the truth. Some political operative offered these fake stories to at least five different media outlets before finding someone irresponsible enough to publish them. I look forward to prosecuting these cases, including the media outlets as well as the sources of their fake stories, to the fullest extent of the law. I intend to hold the Daily Beast and CNN accountable for their actions. They will find themselves in court soon after Thanksgiving.”
Conservatives on Twitter began comparing CNN’s Vienna report to the infamous Prague story in which Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, supposedly traveled to the Czech Republic city to participate with Kremlin figures in an election conspiracy. That story was pushed by the Christopher Steele dossier and Democratic opposition research firm Fusion GPS. Mr. Cohen always denied traveling to Prague and the special counsel report said he did not.
Mr. Nunes, a Trump defender, has been the target of a number of liberal media articles. He has filed suit against the McClatchy newspaper chain for defamation. His former close aide, Kash Patel, filed a libel suit Nov. 8 against Politico for depicting him as hijacking Ukraine policy inside the White House National Security Council staff. Politico said the suit is baseless.
In the hallways of Congress, Mr. Nunes refuses to speak with CNN reporters.
In an increasingly complicated Ukraine-U.S. story line, Mr. Parnas became a source for Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney. The president tasked him to investigate any Ukraine interference in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Giuliani has done a number of press interviews accusing former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, of corruption. While Mr. Biden was the diplomatic point man on Ukraine in 2014, Hunter Biden won a lucrative spot on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings. It is a Kyiv-based natural gas firm described as corrupted by State Department officials.
Mr. Biden, a Democratic candidate for president, denies wrongdoing and called on TV networks to stop booking Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Bondy, the Parnas attorney, is the main conduit for the CNN story that says Mr. Nunes met with Mr. Shokin in Vienna. Mr. Parnas says he got the information from Mr. Shokin himself.
Mr. Bondy wants Mr. Parnas to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence led by Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat, who is moving to impeach Mr. Trump.
On Twitter, Mr. Bondy is winning support from Mr. Avenatti, who has been indicted for allegedly stealing clients’ money and shaking down the Nike athletic apparel company for cash. Mr. Avenatti once represented Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who was paid hush money by Mr. Trump. She claims they had a one-night affair.
Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Avenatti with stealing Ms. Daniels book advance. He then sued her for legal fees of $2 million.
“Thank you,” Mr. Bondy tweeted to Mr. Avenatti, who had tweeted, “Nunes must be criminally prosecuted.”
Mr. Bondy tweeted to Mr. Schiff, “Please arrange for [the committee] to hear Lev Parnas.”
Mr. Bondy’s Twitter profile describes himself as “preeminent criminal defense attorney.”
During two weeks of impeachment hearings, Mr. Schiff sought to prove that Mr. Trump delayed military aid to Ukraine in July-September until it agreed to investigate the Bidens. Mr. Trump maintains the two were not related.
It was Mr. Shokin whom Vice President Biden demanded be fired by the Ukraine president as a condition for the Obama administration releasing $1 billion in aid. Mr. Biden’s allies said he made the demand not to protect his son but because Mr. Shokin was not investigating corrupt Ukraine politicians.