Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity wing fired by President Trump on November 17, has filed a lawsuit over incendiary remarks one of the president’s reelection campaign lawyers made threatening Krebs' life.
Trump axed Krebs, who served as the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency’s (CISA) director since its inception in 2018, following Krebs' public dismissal of the president’s claims of widespread election fraud.
The lawsuit, filed in Maryland state court, alleges that the attorney, Joe diGenova, in a November 30 Newsmax radio interview called Krebs a “class A moron,” and said he “should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.” diGenova later said his words were “sarcastic and made in jest,” calling them "hyperbole in a political discourse” and claimed he wished Krebs no harm.
Krebs’ lawsuit, however, alleges diGenova and the Trump campaign acted with intent to injure him. The threats have “upended plaintiff’s life, as well as his family’s security, and caused serious fear, distress, suffering, and even physical damage,” the filing reads, multiple news outlets reported. The lawsuit also names Newsmax as a third defendant, charging that it aided and abetted diGenova by posting video of his interview. Krebs is asking for a jury trial, financial compensation and a court order for Newsmax to remove the video.
In its own defense, Newsmax told the Associated Press (AP) that it has no official ties to diGenova, conceding that his remarks were "inappropriate" but defended them as not to be taken literally. “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,” the network said.
But the Krebs camp said the legal conflict isn't about free speech but negligence and slander. “No one should be targeted and defamed as a ‘traitor’ for faithfully performing the duties of public service,” Jim Walden, Krebs' lawyer, said (via AP). “That is what happened to Chris and to Republicans all across the country, who truthfully, and based on their substantial experience, are upholding the integrity of the election in the face of a false narrative regarding its results.” Following the incident, Krebs had to move out of his house for several days, hire private security and take special measures to keep his children safe, Walden said.
What initially drew Trump’s ire was Krebs' insistence that the national election had been conducted fairly and without prejudice. Krebs subsequently fell deeper into the President’s disfavor when CISA Assistant Director Bob Kolasky joined members of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council Executive Committee and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council to endorse a joint statement that no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election had been uncovered.
Two weeks after his firing, Krebs reiterated in a December 1 Washington Post op-ed that the “2020 election was the most secure in U.S. history. This success should be celebrated by all Americans, not undermined in the service of a profoundly un-American goal. We did a good job. We did it right. I’d do it a thousand times over.” Krebs’ lawsuit could reverberate to a wide audience.
The Washington Post called it the “most significant effort yet to hold the president and his allies accountable for their violent rhetoric and baseless attacks on the election’s outcome that have led to threats against dozens of election officials.”