Ethics Investigation Into Nunes Requested


Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) went into the hearing room where the House was questioning Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen in its pursuit of wrongdoing. The representative stood at the edge of the room, right within Cohen’s peripheral vision as a silent warning. Although Cohen testified, the attorney still landed in prison. What about Nunes?

The Calfornia representative began on the first Trump campaign. Someone was wise to enlist Nunes, because he was the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee chair at the time. Working at the president’s beck and call can be difficult though.

The representative launched six separate lawsuits:

‘[A]gainst media companies, activists and the investigative research firm behind the Steele Dossier. He alleges they conspired against his re-election and harmed his reputation.’

Source: Campaign Legal Center (CLC)

A nonpartisan watchdog organization has filed an ethics complaint against Nunes on Wednesday. Its big question was: how was the representative paying for all his legal expenses? He filed these lawsuits along with a Virginia attorney Steven Bliss. The two men alleged, according to The Fresno Bee:

‘[D]efamation and conspiracies against him — (which] can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.’

Source: Campaign Legal Center.

Nunes also claimed that he was “defamed by a news story” about “a winery where he was a stakeholder.”

The complaint indicated that Nunes appeared to be in:

‘[B]latant violation of House rules.’

Just last December, he alleged that CNN wrote a “demonstrably false hit piece” when it wrote about an “attorney representing one of Rudy Giuliani’s associates.”

Source: Campaign Legal Center (CLC).

With an annual salary of $174,000 each year, he would experience difficulty paying for the lawsuit unless the case was pro bono (free) or handled with a “contingency fee.” In that case, the attorney would only be paid should he win the lawsuit, with the proceeds taken from the money Nunes’ won.

Yet, even so, Nunes had to explain how that was working under a legal expense fund. Nunes has not filed a legal expense fund with the Office of Congressional Ethics, so how was he managing it?

Source: Campaign Legal Center. (CL)

The complaint against Nunes read:

‘Representative Nunes’s overt involvement with the highly-publicized lawsuits threatens to establish a precedent that the Legal Expense Fund (LEF) regulations no longer apply to Members. Although Representative Nunes is entitled to legal representation and he may pursue any legal action to protect and defend his interests, he must comply with House rules. An (Office of Congressional Ethics) investigation will preserve Representative Nunes’s legal right to counsel while upholding well-established House rules and precedent.’

CLC also questioned whether a contingency fee would explain all of Nunes’ legal expenses. In 2018, the representative sent out a letter to his critics. They were Andrew Janz and California Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA)  and demanded they “apologize” for making critical remarks about Nunes:

‘Mr. Biss sent a letter to Representative Lieu threatening to bring an ethics complaint against him. An ethics complaint will not result in a monetary award that could support payment under a contingency fee agreement.’

Source: Campaign Legal Center (CLC).

The lawsuit pointed to the precedent set by former Representative Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican who filed a defamation lawsuit in 2008, and it requested approval from the Committee on Ethics to pay for lawyers through contingency. The committee denied her request and she was told to repay an organization $500,000 for the legal services it provided her:

‘If such an exception existed, lawyers could easily disguise pro bono legal services as contingency fee agreements. Based on the nature of the extensive legal services that Representative Nunes continues to receive, the (Office of Congressional Ethics) and Committee on Ethics should review any alleged contingency fee agreement.’

The Office of Congressional Ethics reviews ethics complaints but has no obligation to follow through with an investigation.

Source: Campaign Legal Center (CLC).

To read the entire complaint, click on this link to CLC.

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