The suit also takes aim at Liz Mair, a Republican communications consultant who has attacked Nunes on Twitter, and the anonymous accounts “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.”
The suit, first reported by Fox News, was filed in state court in Henrico County, Virginia. Nunes confirmed that he had filed the suit in an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Monday night.
“This is the first of many lawsuits that are coming,” Nunes said on the show. “Our First Amendment rights are at stake here.”
Twitter declined to comment.
Nunes alleges in the complaint that he was defamed by tweets that claimed he was “the most despicably craven GOP public official,” an “unscrupulous, craven, back-stabbing, charlatan and traitor,” and was voted “Most Likely to Commit Treason” in high school, among numerous other epithets.
“Many of the tweets were vile and repulsive, including tweets that depicted Nunes engaged in sexual acts with the President,” the lawsuit states.
The suit notes the large volume of tweets, and alleges that Mair conspired with the two anonymous Twitter users to “defame Nunes and interfere with his duties, employment and investigations of corruption as a United States Congressman.”
“The purpose of the concerted defamation campaign was to cause immense pain, intimidate, interfere with and divert Nunes’ attention from his investigation of corruption and Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election,” the suit alleges.
The suit also accuses Twitter of “shadow-banning” Nunes’ account, a common claim among conservatives, though it notes that Twitter has denied this allegation.
“This is a lie,” the suit states. “Twitter actively censors and shadow-bans conservatives, such as Plaintiff, thereby eliminating his voice while amplifying the voices of his Democratic detractors.”
The suit alleges that Twitter serves as a virtual “town square,” that candidates are obliged to have a Twitter account in order to organize and run for office, and that Twitter must therefore exercise great care “so as not to cause harm to Nunes.” By acting as a platform for hateful tweets, the suit alleges that Twitter has violated the First Amendment.
“Twitter’s use of its platform as a portal for defamation by political operatives and their clients runs contrary to every tenet of American Democracy, including the guarantees of both the First Amendment and Article I, § 12 of the Virginia Constitution,” the suit claims.
Nunes, a Republican from California’s Central Valley, was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee during the first two years of the Trump presidency.
Mair declined to comment on Twitter, but provided a link to contribute to her legal bills. The account @DevinNunesMom was suspended after Nunes’ real mother complained, according to the suit.
Nunes’ attorney, Steven Biss, did not respond to a request for comment. Virginia bar records show that his license was suspended for a year in 2008 after violating securities law and participating in “conduct he should have known was criminal or fraudulent.” He was suspended an additional 30 days after practicing law during the suspension. He also received a public reprimand from the state bar in 2010 for a conflict of interest.