Chris Krebs, the former top administration official for cybersecurity, whom President Donald Trump fired after the election, is suing the Trump campaign and a lawyer working with the campaign to overturn the results of the election, accusing them of defamation.
Krebs was fired after he said the election was the most secure in American history. Yet the Trump campaign has continued to push unfounded conspiracies of vote fraud and to seek court orders that would block President-elect Joe Biden’s win in key states. Every one of the efforts in court or with state officials since Election Day to overturn the results of the election have failed.
Last week, Trump campaign lawyer Joseph diGenova said on Newsmax TV that Krebs should be “drawn and quartered” and “taken out at dawn and shot.”
“DiGenova was fully aware that Plaintiff had committed no criminal conduct of any sort, let alone treason, so as to call for him to be ‘drawn and quartered,’ ” Krebs’ lawsuit said. “DiGenova knew that his inflammatory statements would cause a media frenzy and an outpouring of animosity” and that “his ‘call to action’ would create a clear risk of imminent physical harm directed toward Plaintiff and his family.”
The lawsuit is being filed in state court in Montgomery County, Maryland. Krebs alleges diGenova and the Trump campaign have caused him emotional distress. Krebs also is suing Newsmax, alleging that the far right-wing TV network aided and abetted the alleged harassment. He is asking for at least $75,000 and a court order to force Newsmax to remove video of diGenova’s threats.
DiGenova declined to comment. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“For anyone listening to the Howie Carr Show, it was obvious that my remarks were sarcastic and made in jest. I, of course, wish Mr. Krebs no harm. This was hyperbole in a political discourse,” diGenova said in a statement distributed by the campaign earlier this month.
Newsmax released a statement to CNN, saying diGenova had appeared as a guest via phone on “The Howie Carr Show” and “made comments that were inappropriate.”
The statement said diGenova is “not a paid contributor” to Newsmax and the network has no official ties to him.
“Mr. diGenova has appeared on Newsmax since then on two occasions stating he made the comment ‘facetiously’ and apologized,” the statement says. “He stated that he intended no harm to Mr. Krebs. Newsmax believes that claims made by Mr. Krebs in his suit of a ‘conspiracy’ and defamation against him are a threat to free speech and his legal action endangers all media organizations that seek an open discourse of ideas and news.”
After the comments were made on the show, Krebs said in interviews that he had hired a team of lawyers and that they would be “very busy.” His lawsuit “seeks remedies and relief … for a calculated and pernicious conspiracy” against him and other Republicans “for speaking truth … without servile regard to ‘party loyalty.’ “
Krebs says that he has gotten a “barrage of threats” over email, text message and on social media from people who’ve echoed diGenova and called Krebs a traitor, and that he “faces a genuine risk of imminent harm.”
While the lawsuit appears to be a broad effort to take aim at those conspiracies and threats made toward Krebs, it may face some challenges because of free speech protections in the US.
“It was entirely possible that one or more lunatics would hear Defendant diGenova’s despicable threats as a clarion call to action,” the lawsuit reads.
Krebs says his family had to leave their house for a period, fearing they weren’t safe. His 10-year-old child, the lawsuit says, asked: “Daddy’s going to get executed?”
CLARIFICATION AND CORRECTION: The headline on this story has been updated to clarify the basis for the lawsuit and the story has been updated to correct a reference in the lawsuit to Krebs’ child.