Congress

Rep. Devin Nunes accuses retired farmer of conspiring against him in legal complaint

Even Republicans are scratching their heads

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has filed a string of lawsuits this year alleging conspiracies against him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A farmer, a newspaper and a fictional cow are all defendants in lawsuits filed by Rep. Devin Nunes in the last year. 

From his perch as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes has cast doubt on the findings of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III by alleging, without evidence, a conspiracy by the president’s perceived enemies.

[With no evidence, Nunes warns that Democrats are colluding with Mueller to create ‘narrative’]

The California Republican has been equally aggressive in alleging several conspiracies to oust him from office.

In his latest suit, Nunes targets three constituents: petitioners who sought to remove the congressman’s designation as a “U.S. Representative/Farmer” from the ballot during the 2018 midterm elections.

Many California Republicans are scratching their heads, while Democrats have gone on the offense. 

Democratic opponent Phil Arballo held a press conference in front of Nunes’ district office on Tuesday.  

“Last week was the first week of the congressional summer recess. And rather than come back to his district to hold town halls with his constituents ... our representative has taken a different path,” Arballo said. “A sitting member of Congress is suing his own constituents. This is ridiculous.”

Last year, the defendants in Nunes’ suit called the farmer descriptor “false and misleading,” pointing to congressional disclosures showing Nunes has not reported any income from farming in many years, the Fresno Bee reported. 

Those defendants include Paul Buxman, a 71-year-old retired farmer who lives on “Sweet Home Ranch” in the 22nd District. He joined the petition because of his disapproval of recent volatility in the agricultural sector, including the impact of tariffs and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s audit of his neighbor’s workers, the Bee reported. 

The petition was unsuccessful. Nunes submitted a “ballot designation worksheet” that describes him as a “partner in two farming operations.” Nunes is invested in two wineries. 

The petition was organized by the Democratic super PAC Fight Back California, according to the Bee.

[Rep. Devin Nunes alleges another conspiracy to defame him]

In a complaint filed last week, Nunes says the petition was part of a coordinated campaign, alleging “torturous interference” and “civil conspiracy.”

Buxman told the Bee he does not own a computer and does not have an email address. 

“I’ve never seen a Twitter, or e-face, face deal — whatever that is,” he said. “I’m not a conspirator.”

The congressman describes a web of co-conspirators, including defendants in prior suits he has filed — conservative campaign operative Liz Mair and Fresno Bee publisher McClatchy — but does not name them as defendants. 

Nunes also objects to a freedom of information request submitted to the school where his wife works as a teacher by the organization Campaign for Accountability, though the relationship of that request to the ballot petition is unclear. 

In March, Nunes sued Mair, along with Twitter and two parody accounts impersonating his mother and a cow, for conspiracy and defamation, seeking a quarter of a billion dollars. 

Weeks later, in April, Nunes filed another suit against Mair and Fresno Bee publisher McClatchy, again alleging a conspiracy to defame him, seeking $150 million. 

The 22nd District Republican targeted the Fresno Bee in attack ads in 2018.

A mailer included the photo of a journalist, and a radio ad included the voice of another. In February 2018, following a question about whether Nunes would host town halls in his district, the congressman lashed out, describing the paper as a “joke” and a “left-wing rag.” 

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.