After a special prosecutor announced Monday that he’d brought two indictments against a staffer on former Rep. Scott Taylor’s (R-VA) unsuccessful 2018 re-election campaign, Taylor took the opportunity to engage in a favorite pastime: threatening defamation lawsuits.
Lauren Creekmore was indicted for election fraud in a scheme intended to boost Taylor’s electoral prospects. But Taylor himself hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
So the Virginia Republican is focusing in on just one sentence from special prosecutor Don Caldwell’s press release — that “based upon information currently available, there does not appear to have been a directive or an expectation that these petitions [later found to contain forged signatures] would be circulated in violation of Virginia law.”
“Threshold for defamation against a public figure is disseminating info you knew was false, with malicious intent,” Taylor wrote on Twitter, tagging the Virginia Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He added later, responding to a statement from the DCCC: “we are exploring our legal options to make them accountable for their disgustingly defamatory ways.” Democrats, he wrote, “spent millions maliciously defaming to win election.”
(In statements, both groups have pointed out that Caldwell’s ongoing investigation has already discovered multiple alleged violations of state law by Taylor’s campaign staff, and may still present more.)
It’s the latest sign that President Trump may have popularized the art of may have lawsuit-threat-as-political-messaging on the right. TPM’s Nicole Lafond has faithfully detailed every absurd twist and turn in California Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) effort to pursue legal action against a Twitter troll pretending to be his cow, while others, from the family of Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann to conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, have filed defamation suits of their own against perceived libelers.
Taylor, for his part, has yet to follow through on any of the defamation suit threats that have come fast and furious since his election scandal first emerged last summer. Several of his staffers turned in forged signatures in an attempt to get an independent candidate on the ballot and, the plan went, peel voters away from Taylor’s Democratic opponent. The plan failed.
As local Democratic volunteer Lindsey Terry, who first flagged the forgeries on her Facebook page, revealed to TPM last year, Taylor called her in a “frantic” state about the posts, pressuring her to take them down.
Taylor was “trying to play the good guy,” Terry recalled, saying he didn’t “want to see any lawsuits happening,” while insinuating that a staffer on his campaign accused of signature forgery “was going to sue me — threatening a lawsuit on her behalf, in that sense.”
Around the same time, according to a screenshot of a since-deleted tweet Terry shared with TPM, Taylor again hinted that the Democratic activist could face legal action for her allegations.
A few days later, as word of the signature forgeries spread, Taylor published a Facebook video, which he later deleted.
Referring to one of his staffers accused of forging signatures, Taylor said “she should sue them. They defamed her publicly. I hope she does sue them.”
The scandal raged on. Taylor, despite his promise to fire anyone on his campaign who “did anything that was wrong,” failed to do so. He lost his reelection campaign.
But he continued to publicly float defamation lawsuits, and cheer on others’, like those filed by Sandmann, the Covington student.
— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) January 21, 2019
A defamation lawsuit, for sure, has not been ruled out. Especially after the nasty slanderous commercials during the campaign. We will review options once all is sorted out.
— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) March 1, 2019
The former congressman didn’t respond to TPM’s Tuesday request for comment. Caldwell noted in his press release that his probe was “continuing.”