By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday rejected former congressman Devin Nunes’ effort to revive a $250 million lawsuit accusing the Washington Post of defamation for implying that he lied to former President Donald Trump, a close ally.
In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., said Nunes “does not point to a single statement” that was false or defamatory on its face in the February 2020 article about Russia’s desire for Trump to win a second White House term.
Nunes “failed to plausibly allege a claim of defamation,” the court said.
A lawyer for Nunes did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the Post did not immediately respond to similar requests.
The article, “Senior Intelligence Official Told Lawmakers That Russia Wants to See Trump Reelected,” said intelligence official Shelby Pierson told members of the House Intelligence Committee, where Nunes was the top Republican, that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump.
It said Trump was “furious” after learning about Pierson’s remarks from Nunes and replaced Pierson’s boss Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, viewing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress.
Nunes claimed that the Post defamed him by implying that he misled Trump about who attended Pierson’s briefing, and ruined Maguire’s chance to become permanent intelligence chief.
But the appeals court found nothing to suggest the Post intended either implication.
It said the article merely stated in a “matter-of-fact” manner that Trump erroneously believed that Pierson gave her assessment exclusively to Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, who chaired the intelligence committee, and changed his opinion of Maguire after learning about Pierson’s assessment from Nunes.
Friday’s decision upheld a December 2020 dismissal by a lower court judge. The Post is owned by Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos.
Nunes has filed several defamation lawsuits in recent years, including against CNN, Twitter, MSNBC parent NBCUniversal, and the publisher of Esquire magazine.
He left Congress in December to become chief executive of the social media venture Trump Media & Technology Group.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Howard Goller)