Who Is Devin Nunes? Narrated by Gina Brillon
Rep. Devin Nunes went from suing a cow parody Twitter account to being center stage in the impeachment process.
Devin Nunes is the top Republican on the House Intel Committee and — according to a Rudy Giuliani associate — directly involved in the push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. But long before Nunes was allegedly taking trips to Europe and milking Ukrainians for dirt on the Bidens, he was a congressman who sued a cow parody Twitter account.
From Son of Immigrants to Supporter of an Anti-Immigration Leader
Devin Gerald Nunes was born in 1973 in Tulare, California. His family is of Portugese descent and emigrated from Azores to the U.S., which is possibly why Nunes once had a lax view on immigration. Nunes once supported moderate immigration reform such as giving amnesty to undocumented people living and working in the U.S. But as President Trump has increased resources for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and instituted a family separation policy at the border, Nunes has stood by him.
Before Nunes backed Trump’s every move, he was working on his family’s 640-acre dairy farm, milking cows and raising cattle. But along the way, he also raised some eyebrows.
A Family Farm with Undocumented Workers
A deeply sourced Esquire report notes that the farm secretly moved to Sibley, Iowa more than a decade ago. Nunes hasn’t acknowledged the move, but the piece alleges that the farm heavily relies on cheap, undocumented immigrant labor. It’s worth noting that in 2010, Nunes campaigned for racist Iowa Congressman Steve King, who called illegal immigration a “slow-motion terrorist attack.” Nunes might want to stop campaigning for guys that want to rid the country of the very people his family’s farm ostensibly relies on to stay afloat.
Nunes has since sued Ryan Lizza, the author of the Esquire piece, and the publisher, for $75 million in damages. He famously loves to sue people (or cows), but we’ll get to that in a second.
Pivot into Politics
Nunes graduated from a community college and then got his bachelor’s degree in agriculture business from California Polytechnic State University, where he also earned a master’s. He figured his trajectory wouldn’t alter much from there saying, “I never pictured myself running for office. I always wanted to be a winemaker and make cheese, that sort of thing.”
But of course, Nunes ended up doing the thing he couldn’t fathom: running for office.
In 1998 he ran for Congress, but he was removed from the ballot for not meeting the required age of 25. Nunes sued, alleging he would be 25 before being sworn in — he made his case and was back on the ballot, but it didn’t matter. He lost the primary.
The Bush Administration Years
In 2000, he volunteered on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, and after Bush won the presidency, Bush appointed Nunes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s state director of rural development. During this time, the Democratic-controlled legislature decided to redraw district lines for maximum advantage.
But creating largely left-leaning seats across the state resulted in Nunes’ district turning bright red. He ran for House again and won. Thanks to Democrats, Nunes has been a rising force in Republican politics ever since. And thanks to millions and millions of dollars from Super PACs, he’s been able to stay there.
Loyalty to Trump
In November of 2014, he was appointed chairman of the Intel Committee, where he’s been what Steve Bannon calls Trump’s second strongest ally in Congress, who Trump himself said “may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero.”
But not everyone was digging Nunes. A few parody Twitter accounts mocking Nunes popped up. One was called “Devin Nunes’ Cow,” and another called “Devin Nunes’ Mom.”
In response, Nunes, who co-sponsored the “Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act,” sued Twitter and the users behind the accounts for $250 million.
While Nunes was suing a fake cow, he was simultaneously going to bat for Trump. During the 45th president’s impeachment hearings, Nunes was one of Trump’s loudest defenders.
The Impeachment Predicament
The Daily Beast reported that “Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018, Parnas’ lawyer Ed MacMahon [said].”
The meetings, which took place in Vienna, were meant to advance Ukranian investigations into the Bidens.
While Nunes is bringing parody Twitter accounts and media companies to court, he might want to steer his focus to an even bigger legal battle of his own. House travel records show Nunes went to Europe during the time in question, and three congressional aides who have worked for Nunes have matching travel receipts for the same dates.
It’s unclear where Nunes will go from here, but the bull is beginning to buck. And he can definitely feel it.
According to 538, Nunes votes in line with Trump over 97% of the time. So, one thing's for sure, Nunes will surely be chewing the cud for Trump for the foreseeable future. He’ll have to just hope the president will pardon cow sympathizers in addition to turkeys.