GOP Rep. Devin Nunes to leave Congress to run Trump's media company

The California Republican has been one of the former president's most ardent supporters.

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Rep. Devin Nunes is leaving Congress to run former President Donald Trump's media company.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a longtime ally of Donald Trump, will leave Congress to run the former president's new social media company.

The Trump Media & Technology group said in a statement that Nunes will serve as its chief executive officer, beginning in January. Trump announced in October it would launch a social network called Truth Social to take on Twitter, Facebook and Google-owned YouTube after those companies booted him from their platforms following the deadly US Capitol Hill riot in January. 

Nunes, 48, first took office in 2003 but faces an unlikely prospect of reelection in the 2022 midterms due to realignment of congressional districts.

"The time has come to reopen the Internet and allow for the free flow of ideas and expression without censorship," Nunes said in a statement. "The United States of America made the dream of the Internet a reality and it will be an American company that restores the dream."

As the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes defended Trump during his 2019 impeachment trial. In 2017, he launched the committee's investigation into Trump's ties to Russia but recused himself after Democrats accused him of leaking classified information to the Trump administration. He denied the charges and was cleared a year later after a House Ethics Committee probe.

Nunes was also among the 147 Republican lawmakers who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, in which Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, prevailed. That vote came just hours after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building in a riot that left several people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

Trump said in October that his new company will "stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech" and has for some time claimed without evidence that social media companies discriminate against the right, a charge the firms have repeatedly denied.

Nunes has also been critical of social media, filing a $250 million lawsuit in 2019 that alleged Twitter censors conservative voices through "shadow-banning" and makes money from "abusive, harmful and defamatory" content. Also named as defendants in the lawsuit were the satirical Twitter account of a fake cow and one that parodies the California Republican's mother.

Nunes' lawsuit alleged that the @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow accounts posted defamatory statements about him during the 2018 congressional election and that Twitter didn't do enough to curb this behavior. A Virginia judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2020, citing a federal law that shields social media companies from responsibility for what people post on their sites.

Lawsuits that allege censorship and that argue social media companies violate the First Amendment when they remove posts or ban users have repeatedly been rejected by courts across the country. The First Amendment applies to the government, not to private companies like social media sites.

The Trump Media and Technology Group merged with Digital World Acquisition Corporation, a Miami-based company listed on the Nasdaq, to form a new company chaired by Trump. Digital World Acquisition Corporation is a special-purpose acquisition company, or "blank check company," according to a May filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. SPACs are shell corporations with no commercial operations listed on a public stock exchange with the purpose of acquiring or merging with a private company, thus making it public as well.

The deal is reportedly facing scrutiny from financial regulators. In a filing on Monday, the DWAC said it is cooperating with "preliminary" investigations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The probes are reportedly seeking information about communications between DWAC and Trump's media group, as well as information related to trading in DWAC's stock.