Nearly a year after BuzzFeed published an explosive, though unsubstantiated, dossier detailing the compromising and blackmail-worthy material Russian spies had allegedly gathered about President Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief’s personal lawyer has filed a lawsuit against the research firm behind the dossier and the publication that first released it.
Michael Cohen, who is also named in the 35-page collection of research memos, claimed Fusion GPS, a Democratic-aligned research firm that hired highly revered former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile the dossier, defamed him.
“[Fusion GPS] recklessly placed it beyond their control and allowed it to fall into the hands of media devoted to breaking news on the hottest subject of the day: the Trump candidacy,” read the lawsuit filed in New York state court.
He made similar allegations against BuzzFeed.
“Even though defendant BuzzFeed expressly acknowledged the unverified (and potentially unverifiable) nature of the dossier's allegations, defendant BuzzFeed published the un-redacted dossier and the article anyway — without attempting to determine the veracity of these reports with plaintiff himself,” the federal lawsuit said.
It is pertinent to mention several important details from the dossier have since been corroborated independently.
“The dossier is, and continues to be, the subject of active investigations by Congress and intelligence agencies. It was presented to two successive presidents, and has been described in detail by news outlets around the world," BuzzFeed News spokesperson Matt Mittenthal said in a statement. "Its interest to the public is obvious. This is not the first time Trump's personal lawyer has attacked the free press, and we look forward to defending our First Amendment rights in court."
Meanwhile, according to Cohen, the allegations about his ties to Russia are not only false, but also hurt his career, which is ironic, given that he works for the president of the United States.
“Although no amount of money can ever remedy the damage that has been sustained by Mr. Cohen, we will be seeking maximum damages for the lies contained in the so-called dossier,” the plaintiff’s attorney, David Schwartz, stated. “We believe in our courts and our system of justice and that when all the facts are in, justice will prevail and Mr. Cohen will be awarded damages against the defendants.”
Cohen’s lawsuit comes at the same time as it was revealed one of the major sources behind the dossier has been killed, according to a recently released transcript from an August 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
The lawyer for Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson made the revelation after Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who serves as chief investigative counsel for the committee, asked Simpson how his firm corroborated Steel’s data, some of which came from unidentified sources within Russia.
“It’s a voluntary interview, and in addition to that he wants to be very careful to protect his sources,” said Simpson’s lead counsel Joshua Levy, declining to answer the question. “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work.”
Interestingly, the hearing quickly moved on to the next order of business without anyone elaborating upon this extremely important tidbit.
The Steele dossier is not only crucial because of all the salacious and sordid details about the president (read: the golden shower), but also because it revealed the extent of supposed ties between members of the Trump campaign and officials in Moscow, which prompted the FBI to launch an investigation and conclude Russian government indeed interfered during the 2016 presidential election.
The memos had reportedly been circulating among high-level government officials for a while before some journalists were briefed on it. A few weeks later, Buzzfeed decided to go ahead and publish it, raising questions about ethics as the accusations listed in the dossier remained unsubstantiated.
It was later revealed that Perkins Coie, the law firm representing former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and DNC, retained Fusion GPS to do opposition research against the Trump campaign, which is legal and something that all campaigns do to change the public view of their rivals.
Fusion GPS, in turn, hired Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based company founded by Steele, to compile the study.
However, as many have pointed out, it does not matter who funded the dossier, considering some of it claims have already been independently substantiated.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst