This is Nunes’ latest libel lawsuit, just filed yesterday in Florida state court; I’m too slammed to write about it in detail, but I thought I’d pass along the Complaint (Nunes v. Guardian News & Media Ltd.). Here’s the start of the Statement of Material Facts:
11. On March 15, 2023, Guardian published an online article written by Hugo Lowell, entitled “Federal investigators examined Trump Media for possible money laundering, sources say”. [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/15/trump-media-investigated-possible-money-laundering (the “Article”)].
12. The Article contains the following false statements and defamatory implications of or concerning Nunes:
● The headline falsely states that “Federal investigators examined Trump Media for possible money laundering”;
● The subheading of the Article falsely states that “New York prosecutors expanded criminal inquiry of company last year and examined acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties”;
● The Article falsely states that “Federal prosecutors in New York involved in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s social media company last year started examining whether it violated money laundering statutes in connection with the acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties”;
● The Article falsely states that “The company – Trump Media, which owns Trump’s Truth Social platform – initially came under criminal investigation over its preparations for a potential merger with a blank check company called Digital World (DWAC)”;
● The Article falsely states that “[t]owards the end of last year, federal prosecutors started examining two loans totaling $8m wired to Trump Media”;
● The Article falsely states that there is and/or was a criminal investigation of TMTG and that Federal prosecutors “expanded” the “nature of the criminal investigation”;
● The Article falsely states that “[e]ven if Trump Media and its officers face no criminal exposure for the transactions, the optics of borrowing money from potentially unsavory sources through opaque conduits could cloud Trump’s image as he seeks to recapture the White House in 2024”;
● The Article states that “[t]he extent of the exposure for Trump Media and its officers for money laundering remains unclear. The statutes broadly require prosecutors to show that defendants knew the money was the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity and the transaction was designed to conceal its source. But money laundering prosecutions … can be based on materials that show that the money in question was unlikely to have legitimate origins”;
● The Article falsely states that the “Russian connection” was “being examined by prosecutors in the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York”;
● The Article falsely states or implies that there was an “investigation” targeted at TMTG by the Justice Department or the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York: “A spokesman for the justice department, the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York and outside counsel for Trump Media declined to comment about the investigation”;
● The Article falsely states that “[t]he obscure origins of the $8m loans caused alarm at Trump Media and, in the spring of 2022, Trump Media’s then chief financial officer Phillip Juhan weighed returning the money … But the money was never returned, Wilkerson said, in part because losing $8m out of the roughly $12m cash that Trump Media had in its accounts at that time would have placed significant stress on its financial situation”;
● The Article falsely states that “Prosecutors appear to have also taken a special interest in the payments because the off-shore Paxum Bank has a history of providing banking services for the pornography and sex worker industries, which makes it higher risk of engaging in money laundering and other illicit financing”.
The Guardian Article acknowledges that [Will] Wilkerson and his agents are the source of the false and defamatory charges. On March 17, 2023, Guardian published a second story written by Lowell, in which Guardian republished the false and defamatory Statements and implications in the first Article, and added others. [https://www.theguardian.com/usnews/2023/mar/17/trump-media-executives-worried-over-murky-8m-loan]. The second story included the following additional false and defamatory Statements and implications:
● “months after Trump Media came under criminal investigation for the merger by the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York, federal prosecutors started to examine whether the company violated money-laundering statutes over the payments”;
● “The question about who knew about the origins of the $8m that ran the risk of having illegitimate origins because of the Russian connection, and what Trump Media did to ensure that kind of money was not entering the United States has become a key issue arising from the episode”….
(each of the above is a “Guardian Statement” and together the “Guardian Statements”).
13. The express meaning and defamatory gist of the Guardian Statements is that Nunes – “Trump Media chief executive Devin Nunes” – committed or aided and abetted serious Federal crimes, including violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 (laundering of monetary instruments). The Guardian Statements impute to Nunes unfitness to hold an office of employment, including dishonesty, want of integrity, malfeasance and criminality. The Guardian Statements severely prejudice Nunes in his business and profession as CEO of Sarasota-based Trump Media.