Rep. Devin Nunes, a controversial San Joaquin Valley Republican, is leaving Congress to head a social media company created by former President Trump.
“I will deeply miss being your congressman,” Nunes said in a message to his constituents on Monday.
Shortly after he sent the note, the Trump Media & Technology Group announced that Nunes, 48, would be its chief executive officer beginning in January.
“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. “I’m humbled and honored President Trump has asked me to lead the mission.”
Sitting members of Congress face significant restrictions on negotiating private sector jobs while still in office. However, the constraints are widely disobeyed.
The former dairy farmer’s retirement comes in the midst of the every-decade redrawing of congressional districts and as California loses a member of Congress for the first time in its history. Under draft maps released in November, Nunes would have faced a tough reelection in in the 2022 midterms. But the incumbent is a prodigious fundraiser, reporting $11.8 million in cash on hand at the end of September, and could have sought office in a more favorable seat since members of Congress do not have to live in their districts.
If he had run and was successful, Nunes was poised to become chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee should Republicans take the majority in 2022, as expected.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised Nunes’ work for Californians.
“The Central Valley of California is better off because of his relentless pursuit of the priorities that sustain our way of life, from water to agriculture to healthcare to economic growth,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Devin’s departure leaves a gaping hole in this institution, but his dedication to our country will persist.”
Nunes’ prolific fundraising is notable among members who are not in leadership. It is an outgrowth of his prominence on the House Intelligence Committee and his senior position on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
In the last election cycle, he pulled in more than $26 million, ranking him fourth in the entire House for money raised directly for a member’s personal campaign account (versus the party accounts that leaders typically support), according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics.
Nunes has served in Congress since 2003. As the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee during the first impeachment of President Trump, Nunes positioned himself as a key ally and defender of the former president; Trump later awarded Nunes the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He drew headlines for several lawsuits he filed in an attempt to squelch criticism, notably one two years ago against Twitter over parody accounts named Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom, as well as a Democratic strategist. He said the accounts defamed him and his reputation, costing him political support in his 2018 reelection. The suits were unsuccessful.
Such efforts, along with Nunes’ unyielding loyalty to Trump, led to Nunes becoming a top target for liberal scorn across the nation.
“Good riddance,” said Democrat Phil Arballo, who unsuccessfully ran against Nunes in 2020 and planned to run against him next year.
Nunes’ retirement will provide a small but immediate boost to House Democrats: As soon as Nunes leaves office and while his seat is vacant, Democratic leadership will have a bit more breathing room in their slim majority.
He is the second member of the California congressional delegation to announce his retirement. Rep. Jackie Speier, a Bay Area Democrat, announced she would not seek reelection last month.
Mehta reported from Los Angeles and Haberkorn from Washington.