Fired cybersecurity chief Christopher Krebs sues Trump campaign, lawyer diGenova, Newsmax after receiving threats

Key Points
  • Christopher Krebs, the nation's former cybersecurity and infrastructure security chief, sued President Trump's campaign, top Republican lawyer Joseph diGenova and right-wing journalism outlet Newsmax.
  • Krebs accuses the defendants of conspiring to defame him over his statement that the presidential election was secure from foreign interference.
  • One of Krebs' children asked, "Daddy's going to get executed?" after diGenova suggested he be killed in a manner historically used to deal with traitors.
Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled "5G: National Security Concerns, Intellectual Property Issues, and the Impact on Competition and Innovation," on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The nation's former cybersecurity and infrastructure security chief filed a lawsuit Tuesday, accusing President Donald Trump's campaign, a top GOP lawyer and the media outlet Newsmax of conspiring to defame him over his statement that the election was secure from foreign interference.

Christopher Krebs' lawsuit said the defendants engaged in a "calculated and pernicious conspiracy" and that he "faces a genuine risk of imminent harm from persons who may seek to act upon the Defendants' call for violence" against him.

In fact, the suit says, one of Krebs' children asked, "Daddy's going to get executed?" when one of the president's surrogates, former top federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova, suggested that Krebs be killed in a manner historically used to deal with traitors.

His suit noted that Trump fired him via Twitter in a post after Krebs' Nov. 12 statement, saying the "recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud."

The lawsuit also said diGenova, the GOP attorney allied with Trump's campaign, singled out Krebs during an appearance on "The Howie Carr Show" on Newsmax last week.

"He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot," diGenova said on the show.

President Trump fires cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs
President Trump fires cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs

The lawsuit, filed in Montgomery County, Maryland, where diGenova lives, said "diGenova's call to execute Plaintiff was received, as Defendant diGenova intended, by numerous angry Newsmax viewers as confirmation that Plaintiff was one of the 'traitors' who was stealing the election from President Trump."

"An angry mob immediately bombarded Plaintiff with a barrage of death threats and harassment, which continue to this day," the suit says.

"The Defendants' threats have upended Plaintiff's life, as well as his family's security, and caused serious fear, distress, suffering, and even physical damage," according to the suit, which says Krebs is a lifelong Republican and a "patriot."

DiGenova, after an uproar over his comments about Krebs, claimed that he was joking that Krebs should be killed in a gruesome manner.

The lawsuit asks a judge to order Newsmax to remove from its website any recording of the threats made by diGenova, and for monetary damages in excess of $75,000.

"No one should be targeted and defamed as a 'traitor' for faithfully performing the duties of public service," Krebs' lawyer Jim Walden said in a statement.

"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," Walden said.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"No comment," diGenova said in an email to CNBC when asked about the lawsuit, which Krebs earlier had suggested he would file.

Newsmax said: "Newsmax TV airs the The Howie Carr Show, a Boston-based syndicated radio program it licenses, as a simulcast for one hour each weekday. Mr. diGenova appeared by phone on that simulcast as a guest and made comments that were inappropriate. Mr. diGenova is not a paid contributor to Newsmax and 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 right-wing media outlet said.

"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."

Trump, his campaign and legal team, and millions of the president's supporters have refused to concede that President-elect Joe Biden won the election. The Democrat is on track to have 306 Electoral College votes when it meets next week, 36 more than needed for victory.

Trump and his lawyers claim he was swindled out of a victory by ballot fraud but have lost lawsuits seeking to invalidate votes for Biden.

The president recently has leaned on legislators and officials in several swing states to try to overturn Biden's win in those states by having state legislatures select a slate of Trump electors for the Electoral College. Trump's allies also are eyeing a last-gasp effort to have the U.S. House of Representatives reverse Biden's win.