CNN will depose Michael Flynn’s family members in the “coming weeks,” the network’s lawyer said during a hearing on Tuesday.
The attorney did not provide a more specific time frame. But the discovery deadline in May 18, 2023 — and a female relative of Flynn will be deposed in April.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave said that CNN can question them during those depositions about the network’s claims that the family members deleted documents and communications.
Tuesday’s hearing was conducted via a telephone conference that kicked off at 4 p.m. ET and lasted nearly an hour.
During that hearing, Cave denied a request by Flynns’ family members to depose Anderson Cooper, finding that they didn’t show any connection the star host had to the case.
Earlier this month, CNN demanded a forensic search of the phones of Flynn’s brother John “Jack” Flynn and that sibling’s wife Leslie Flynn, claiming that “serious doubts” caused by their “incomplete document productions” justify such an action.
Different members of Flynn’s family have been suing the cable news network in multiple courts over broadcasts depicting them as QAnon adherents. The segments aired footage that Flynn posted of himself and his family members at a July 4th barbecue on 2020, raising a hand and reciting the words “Where we go one, we go all.” Flynn posted the video to his Twitter account with the hashtag #TakeTheOath.
CNN described the words as a QAnon oath in a segment that has inspired multiple lawsuits, in New York and Florida.
Flynn’s family insists that the words, which QAnon adherents abbreviate with the social media hashtag #WW1WGA, are just a “simple, family, July 4 statement of support for each other.”
In December 2021, U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods advanced the Flynns’ suit only in part. He overruled a magistrate’s finding that the relatives’ own tweets exposed them as QAnon supporters, noting that Flynn’s family only has to meet a low bar on a motion to dismiss.
“Even though the tweets express support for QAnon and are therefore evidence that the Flynns were QAnon followers, the Court cannot weigh evidence in deciding a motion to dismiss,” Woods noted.
The judge did, however, dismiss a count of defamation — but he allowed allegations that Flynn’s family were portrayed in a false light to proceed to discovery.
The Flynns’ lawyer Steven Biss claimed in a separate letter: “No text messages are missing. CNN has them all.” Biss then insulted the broadcast in question as a “fake news grift,” branding his clients as QAnon followers in a “misguided attempt to raise ratings.”
The attorney then demanded an opportunity to depose CNN’s star host Anderson Cooper, a gambit the network noted was already rejected earlier by the same judge.
“Your Honor should deny the relief requested herein for the same reasons you denied the motion to compel documents,” CNN’s lawyer Katherine Bolger wrote. “Mr. Cooper was not involved in the publication of the allegedly defamatory statements.”
CNN argued that forcing Cooper to testify, absent any good reason, would violate his right to report.
“Mr. Cooper is undoubtedly a marquee talent at CNN; therefore, any compelled attendance at a deposition concerning a Report he played no role in creating would be unduly disruptive to his constitutionally-protected newsgathering activities and those of CNN while providing no benefit to either party,” Bolger’s letter continued. “And where, as here, Plaintiffs’ counsel describes himself on his Truth Social account as a defamation litigator ‘against the animals at CNN,’ it seems possible that Plaintiffs may be motivated to depose Mr. Cooper for reasons other than good-faith litigation strategy.”
During the hearing, Cave did not remark upon whether or not Biss made the request in good faith, but simply rejected Cooper’s deposition as unwarranted “at this time.”
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