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Rep. Devin Nunes is suing Twitter again, saying someone else is stalking him

Katie Irby
McClatchy

Washington — California Rep. Devin Nunes is suing Twitter — again — and a man who previously lived in his district, alleging a widespread stalking and harassment campaign against Nunes that he says was conducted on Twitter.

The complaint by Nunes provides almost no specific examples to support his stalking and harassment accusations. The man he is suing has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under California’s anti-SLAPP law, which discourages frivolous lawsuits.

In a response to the motion, Nunes says his complaint should be heard.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is suing Twitter and a man who previously lived in his district, alleging widespread stalking and a harassment campaign against him that he says was conducted on the social media platform.

In the complaint filed in Tulare County Superior Court in October, Nunes says the man, Benjamin Paul Meredith, “runs a network of anonymous Twitter accounts that stalk (Nunes) 24 hours, every day.” Nunes says the accounts have posted “thousands” of comments threatening him, posting his personal information and encouraging others to harass him.

Nunes also is suing Twitter, which he accuses of “aiding and abetting Meredith’s unlawful acts.” The last defendant listed is “Does 1 to 100” or “the Doe Defendants,” as Nunes alleges there is an extensive network of anonymous accounts that are harassing him.

Nunes and his attorneys, Derek Wisehart of California and his usual attorney, Steven Biss of Virginia, do not name any of the Twitter accounts, or show any of the tweets to which he is referring. The only incident he mentions is one captured in a video that was widely circulated in September. The video shows Nunes sitting in an airplane seat with a face mask around his chin, and he appears to be eating.

“Sued any cows lately?” A woman who is holding the phone recording him asks, referring to another one of Nunes’ lawsuits. “Sued any more cows lately? Moo. Moo.”

Nunes looks at the camera but does not respond to the woman during the video.

Meredith now lives in Washington state, but used to live in Nunes’ district. In his motion to dismiss Nunes’ lawsuit, he says Nunes approached him decades ago, telling him to run for the Tulare County Republican Central Committee. Meredith held a seat on the committee between 2000 and 2002.

In 2002, Meredith says, he opposed supporting Nunes’ first-time bid for Congress, believing Nunes wasn’t qualified.

“Nunes harbored a grudge (and still does, apparently),” Meredith’s motion reads.

Meredith denies engaging with the video that was posted of Nunes on the airplane. His attorney, Brian Whelan, says in the motion to dismiss that the video is protected speech and does not constitute harassment.

Nunes also alleges that Meredith is receiving funding from the Voter Protection Project, a political action committee that fundraised for Democratic candidates and is controlled by his 2018 congressional opponent, Andrew Janz. McClatchy reviewed Voter Protection Project’s disbursement records with the Federal Election Commission this year and found no disbursements to anyone with the last name “Meredith.”

“VPP has never paid this person,” said Heather Greven, who is running the PAC with Janz. “It’s telling that this is the kind of thing (Nunes) is focused on.”

A reading of the complaint seems to indicate that the Republican congressman believes that the Twitter account Devin Nunes’ Cow is connected to Meredith. In the complaint, he cites a tweet, which he found posted on a website called “janztrolls”; the tweet appears to be posted by Yasmin Mendoza, who worked for Janz’s campaign, and says a woman named Michelle Emmitt is the person behind the account called DevinCow. Nunes’ attorneys then say they searched for a Twitter account with the same description of “Mom, wife, therapist, dog friend” and found an account tied to Meredith’s wife.

Mendoza says in a sworn affidavit offered in support of Meredith’s anti-SLAPP motion, that the tweet that appeared on “janztrolls” was never posted by her or on her account. She also says that the content of the tweet is not true, that Michelle Emmitt is not the person behind the account called DevinCow.

Nunes has been on a legal mission to find out the identity of the DevinCow Twitter account for nearly two years. He sued the account, as well as Twitter, in March 2019, trying to use discovery to find the identity of whoever was running the account. The account’s followers went from around 1,000 people to well over 600,000 people after that lawsuit was filed.

Nunes has filed a total of nine lawsuits in the past two years. He has sued media outlets such as The Washington Post, CNN, the owners of Esquire Magazine and McClatchy, the owner of the largest newspaper in Nunes’ district, The Fresno Bee. He also has sued political operatives, his own constituents and anonymous people on Twitter.

All of his lawsuits have been dismissed by judges, withdrawn by him or have dismissal motions pending. He has appealed or re-filed in cases where judges dismissed his lawsuits.