The Republican ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee refused to answer a direct question Sunday about whether he met with former Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin last year as part of an effort to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo directly asked Nunes during an interview about a report first published by CNN that claims Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas is willing to testify to Congress that Nunes met with Shokin last year. Instead he accused CNN of likely committing criminal activity with its story.
The exchange began with a direct question from Bartiromo: “Bottom line, were you in Vienna with Shokin?” Nunes then jumped into a monologue:
“I really want to answer all of these questions, and I promise you I absolutely will come back on the show and answer these questions, but because there is criminal activity here, we’re working with the appropriate law enforcement agencies, we’re going to file all this, everyone is going to know the truth, everybody is going to know all the facts, but I think you can understand that I can’t compete by trying to debate this out with the public media when 90 percent of the media are totally corrupt. And because this is criminal in nature and because it’s so bad, it’s so slanderous, we’ve got all the facts on our side, and we’re going to file in federal court because I’m not going to sit here and try to compete against the media that I have no chance of winning this. I will win in court in, and they’ll have a chance to cooperate, and they’ll have to show how they work with somebody who has been indicted, which is likely conspiring to obstruct justice.”
When Bartiromo asked whether he was saying that CNN “committed criminal activity” Nunes said “it’s very likely. Or they’re an accessory to it, right?” The Republican lawmaker added that he is “the last guy that wants to go into the courts” but he has no choice because “the media has become totally corrupt that now they’re willing to actually engage and help with criminals, indicted criminals.” Despite Nunes’ tough words, it isn’t clear exactly what he would sue for. As Axios notes, a defamation lawsuit would require him to show the news outlet acted with actual malice and a reckless disregard for the truth. But it really just reported statements from Parnas’ attorney.
Nunes spoke shortly after Rep. Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it’s “quite likely” Nunes will face an ethics investigation over the allegations that he met with Shokin. It would mark his second ethics probe in two years after investigators cleared him in 2017 of accusations that he shared classified information with the White House.