A multi-million-dollar libel case has been brought against BuzzFeed, the liberal leaning media outlet that published the unverified, debunked 35-page dossier which made outrageous claims, including the most infamous, which said that while businessman Donald J. Trump was staying in the presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow in 2013, he hired “a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.”
Now, the dishonest man responsible for creating that false dossier, former MI-6 British Intelligence Officer Christopher Steele, has been ordered to give a deposition in a Florida district court on the matter. But Steele is fighting it.
A lawyer directly involved in the case said the issue will likely be argued before British courts, where a similar libel case is being heard.
Mr. Steele’s London-based company, Orbis Business Intelligence, created the fake dossier while working for an American- based opposition research company called Fusion GPS. The document, which was crafted to find dirt on Donald J. Trump at the order of unknown political rivals, contained salacious charges that have not been corroborated.
Most credible media outlets and television networks ignored the fake dossier, but the click bait website BuzzFeed fell for the story in January 2017, setting off an international firestorm when it chose to publish the entire fake dossier, including allegations involving Russian technology guru Aleksej Gubarev and his companies, XBT Holdings and Webzilla.
Dennis Michael Lynch, CEO of DML NEWS, said that Buzzfeed is what fake news is all about. “Buzzfeed was a click bait, shock and awe website filled with videos about cats falling out of trees and stories about how people recover from hangovers before it decided to cover news and politics. Of course they’ll publish fake stories about Trump and prostitutes.”
The fake dossier claimed XBT and Webzilla used “botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”
Gubarev’s Boston-based attorney, Evan Fray-Witzer, told the Fox News Channel he asked the Florida judge to help make certain that Steele answers questions.
“We asked the court in Florida to issue a ‘Request for International Judicial Assistance,’” Fray-Witzer said. The request would have the Florida court ask that its British counterpart compel Steele to submit to a sworn deposition that would be taken in London and videotaped, to be played to the jury at trial.
Mr. Steele’s lawyers asked Ungaro to reject the request, which was denied.
“That dispute will move to London, where we expect Mr. Steele will continue to try to avoid being deposed,” Fray-Witzer said.
The libel suit does not directly involve President Donald J. Trump, but a jury trial could prove explosive as the dossier and BuzzFeed’s vetting process would be exposed.
“We are absolutely looking forward to a jury trial,” Fray-Witzer said. “BuzzFeed published the dossier – and the comments about our clients – without having made any effort whatsoever to determine if the things said about our clients were true. They don’t even claim otherwise.”
During the heated 2016 presidential campaign, the fake dossier was vigorously shopped around on both sides of the Atlantic and to various media outlets in an effort to ruin Donald J. Trump’s reputation, both personally and in terms of purporting to show how Russia sought to help him with hacking, leaks and fake news stories.
“We know from what Steele has said in the British lawsuit that – at Fusion’s instruction – he briefed reporters at The New York Times, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, the New Yorker, CNN and Mother Jones about the dossier,” Fray-Witzer said. “To their credit, not a one of them actually published the fake dossier. Only BuzzFeed did that, and we think that says something about where BuzzFeed’s priorities were. This was about ‘clicks,’ not about responsible reporting.”
Mr. Steele reportedly met with the FBI on Aug. 22. The fake dossier was part of the evidence the FBI used to obtain a FISA warrant to monitor communications of Carter Page, a peripheral adviser in the Trump campaign. Former FBI Director James Comey considered the fake dossier so important that he insisted it be included in January’s final Intelligence Community Report on Russian meddling in the election and reportedly offered Mr. Steele $50,000 to corroborate the fake dossier. However, the bureau denies having paid for the dossier.
Meanwhile, Fusion’s founder, former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, hired Mr. Steele to create the fake dossier. He spent 10 hours behind closed doors in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday with congressional investigators assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa), who has been upset with the level of cooperation his Senate Judiciary Committee has received from Mr. Simpson and his attorney.
“Fusion’s initial production of documents consisted solely of headlines from publicly available news reports and more than 7,500 pages of blank paper,” Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy said. “Fusion eventually provided a copy of the same unverified dossier that’s been publicly available since January, and a privilege log that raises more questions than it answers.”
FOX News Channel reported this week that Fusion GPS gave the committee 40,000 (forty thousand) documents.
The records were finally provided by Mr. Simpson and his legal team after Sen. Grassley sent several letters raising questions about the dossier, moved a Judiciary Committee hearing to accommodate Mr. Simpson’s schedule, and withdrew a subpoena in return for a pledge of cooperation.
“I’d note that only after the subpoena did Mr. Simpson indicate any willingness to cooperate voluntarily, yet the documents produced by his legal team have not been responsive to the committee’s questions,” Foy said.
According to court filings, BuzzFeed’s legal team expects responses by Aug. 25 to “subpoenas served for depositions and production of documents from several third-party witnesses, including several government agencies and their former officials.” These include the FBI, Department of Justice, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, as well as James Comey and Obama administration intelligence bosses James Clapper and John Brennan. Each federal agency declined to comment on the case, citing “ongoing litigation.”
Below is a video that explains what is taking place in greater detail.