The West

Devin Nunes in Twitter lawsuit demands emails from Democratic strategist

Rep. Devin Nunes wants to compel a former Democratic National Committee employee and a Democrat-supporting law firm to turn over their communications with anonymous writers who criticize him on Twitter.

Nunes’ lawyer, Steven Biss, issued subpoenas for their communications through the defamation lawsuit the California congressman filed against Twitter earlier this year in Virginia’s Henrico County Circuit Court.

Nunes in the case also is suing Republican political strategist Liz Mair and anonymous writers behind social media accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom. He alleges they conspired to defame him in the 2018 election, interfering with his investigations as House Intelligence Committee chairman and causing him to win the 2016 election by a narrower margin than usual.

Nunes’ new requests seek communications between the DNC strategist, the law firm and the anonymous writers that occurred after Nunes filed the lawsuit. They are Nunes’ first subpoenas in the case.

Virginia’s judicial system allows civil attorneys to issue subpoenas for documents. The person summoned through the subpoena can object to it and file a motion to quash it.

Nunes’ lawsuit empowered the anonymous Twitter users by greatly swelling their audiences — they now have more than 700,000 followers and they often promote his political opponents. At the same time, Nunes’ fundraising soared since he filed the case. He’s amassed $7 million in his re-election fund, more than any other congressman.

It’s not immediately clear how the two subpoenas, to Adam Parkhomenko, who worked for the DNC in 2016, and the Hawkins Law Firm located in Richmond, Virginia, are related to the case. They haven’t been mentioned in any material in the court case to date.

Parkhomenko worked for the TRR Group, a public relations firm that advised Nunes’ Democratic opponent in 2018. Since Nunes filed the lawsuit in March, Parkhomenko has mocked the Tulare Republican on Twitter, sometimes alongside the cow and mom accounts, and supported one of Nunes’ current congressional opponents, Phil Arballo.

Biss’ requests paint a picture of how he believes they might be related, or at least helpful to Nunes’ ends of wanting to identify who is behind the Twitter parody accounts.

He asks for any identifying information both Parkhomenko and Hawkins have on the two parody accounts, or any communications between them and the two accounts, including emails, text messages and direct messages on Twitter. Biss also seeks any communications they have about Nunes to Twitter or Mair, a Republican strategist who worked to unseat Nunes in 2016.

Biss also demands Parkhomenko and Hawkins provide any communications they have with “any person relating to the action Nunes v. Twitter.”

The Hawkins Law Firm, and specifically Richard Hawkins, is asked to provide any communications with Andrew Janz, Nunes’ opponent in 2018, that concern Nunes.

Nunes’ request also asks for Hawkins’ communications with Super PAC Voter Protection Project, which was started by Janz earlier this year to “fight back against President Trump’s and Republicans’ attacks on our right to vote, by leading the charge to make sure every American has the right to cast a ballot.”

The Hawkins Law Firm received $3,000 from the Super PAC earlier this year, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Biss, Parkhomenko and Hawkins declined to comment. The subpoenas were signed by Biss and requests the relevant documents by Nov. 30.

Nunes has four active lawsuits against media organizations and political adversaries. Three of the cases are in Virginia. He is suing McClatchy, the parent company of the Fresno Bee, alleging that a newspaper article — about an employee’s lawsuit against a company in which Nunes has a limited partnership — defamed him. Sacramento-based McClatchy is fighting the lawsuit, arguing the case is “cynical maneuver to score cheap political points.”

Nunes is suing political research company Fusion GPS and progressive group Campaign for Accountability. Fusion GPS is the firm that in 2016 created what is known as a “dossier” of information alleging President Donald Trump had questionable ties to Russia. Neither Fusion GPS nor the advocacy group is based in Virginia.

In his most recent lawsuit, Nunes alleges in an Iowa court that journalist Ryan Lizza and Esquire magazine defamed Nunes in a 2018 story about Nunes’ family relocating its dairy operations to Iowa.

Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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