Rep. Devin Nunes will retire from the United States House of Representatives at the end of the year, his office told constituents on Monday.
Nunes, R-Tulare, will become the chief executive officer of the Trump Media & Technology Group, a conservative social media outlet that the former president aims to launch, the company said.
“Devin understands that we must stop the liberal media and Big Tech from destroying the freedoms that make America great,” Trump said in a press release on Monday.
Nunes has long been at odds with mainstream news and social media companies. He picked an ongoing legal fight against various Twitter users in 2019 and sued the social media giant itself twice. Nunes abandoned his Twitter platform for more conservative options, like Parler, in 2020 with other conservatives.
The Republican representative developed a national audience when he aligned himself with Trump during his tenure, having contested Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Nunes, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also denounced Trump’s impeachment over the former president’s attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating President Joe Biden and his son. Nunes called both the Mueller investigation and Trump’s impeachment a “hoax.”
Trump then awarded Nunes the Medal of Freedom before he left office, praising Nunes for his work contesting the investigations into his administration.
“As the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, with the entire weight of the legacy media and Washington establishment bearing down on him, Devin stood by his convictions on behalf of his constituents and hardworking Americans across the country. And every step of the way, Devin was proven right. There is no better person prepared to compete head-to-head and lead an alternative to the big tech and big media cartel that has carried water for the Democrat Party for years than Devin,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a statement.
Along with his alliance with Trump, Nunes is known for his various lawsuits against organizations and people who he claims have defamed him. He has filed 10 of those lawsuits since 2019, including against The Washington Post — twice — CNN, NBCUniversal and McClatchy, the parent company of The Fresno Bee.
The first suit he filed was against Twitter, a Republican strategist and two anonymous hecklers who go by “Devin Nunes’ cow” and “Devin Nunes’ Alt-Mom” on the social media platform. A Virginia judge dismissed Twitter from the lawsuit in August 2020, but the congressman continues to attempt to sue the writers behind the anonymous accounts.
Longtime Central Valley congressman
Nunes has represented various parts of the San Joaquin Valley since 2003. He was considered a strong contender to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans won control of the House in next year’s election. The committee writes legislation on taxes, health care, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and trade, and its chairman has historically set the agenda.
“I will deeply miss being your congressman. It’s been the honor of a lifetime to represent you, and I thank you for the trust you put in me through all these years. It’s also been my privilege, as Chairman and then Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, to meet with members of our armed services and our intelligence agencies throughout the world—I’m awed by the sacrifices these patriots make in service to their nation,” Nunes said in an email to followers on Monday.
“Rest assured, I have not, by any means, given up our collective fight—I’ll just be pursuing it through other means,” he ended.
Nunes consistently won re-election by more than 20 percentage points until Trump took office in 2017. In 2018, Democratic challenger Andrew Janz came within six percentage points of Nunes; in 2020, Democratic opponent Phil Arballo came within nine.
Arballo, who is running again in 2022, said that Nunes had abandoned his San Joaquin Valley district long ago.
“This kind of just proves that for him that [Central Valley residents] were an afterthought, especially after 2016 and maybe even long before that: The Central Valley unfortunately was a means to an end, which he took for granted. And now, fortunately for us, we can move on, and we can elect a representative that more reflects the times here in the Valley and the community,” Arballo told The Fresno Bee.
Prior to Nunes’ announcement on Monday, four Democrats were challenging him for his seat. There were no Republicans in the race.
California redistricting commission
Congressional seats must be filled through elections, per the U.S. Constitution, meaning that Nunes’ seat would need to be filled with either a special election or remain vacated until it is filled in the 2022 midterm elections.
Under California law, the governor must call a special election within two weeks of the vacancy for a primary that would occur within 20 weeks and, later, a general election, meaning the seat would not be filled until the summer at earliest.
The news comes amid this round of redistricting, the process by which legislative boundaries are redrawn, in which early maps were unfavorable to Nunes. His current district would turn from having voted for Trump in 2020 by five percentage points to one that backed President Joe Biden by nine.
California representatives are not required to live in the districts that they represent. Nunes had more cash on hand than any other Republican in the first half of 2021, which, alongside his national reputation, could have cushioned his campaign in new areas.
A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to a request for comment.
“I get it, because I know him well, but what a loss for Congress,” local radio host Ray Appleton, who first broke the news on Monday, said on KMJ NOW.
The Sacramento Bee’s Lara Korte and McClatchy DC’s David Lightman and Alex Roarty contributed to this report.