BuzzFeed Sued by Businessman Smeared in Trump Dossier

Attorney for plaintiff says digital outlet 'may as well have released a science fiction document'

A technology sector businessman who claims he became collateral damage as a result of BuzzFeed’s “reckless and irresponsible” publication of the now-infamous Trump dossier is taking the digital outlet to court.

The dossier, published in full by BuzzFeed on Jan. 10, contained completely unverified, salacious allegations about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

“They may as well have released a science fiction document … They openly said they could not verify anything.”

Aleksej Gubarev, the CEO of XBT, filed suit against BuzzFeed earlier this month in a Florida court. Gubarev has also filed suit against the retired British agent who reportedly compiled the dossier on Trump.

That suit, filed against former MI6 agent Christopher Steele and his company, Orbis, was filed in London by Gubarev’s lawyers.

But the dossier was problematic and its claims were outrageous. The lengthy document also contained language styles that did not mesh with intelligence reports, according to one former Democratic staffer at the State Department. The former State staffer, who asked LifeZette for anonymity, said the language and style used were highly suspect and unprofessional.

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After CNN reported on the existence of the dossier, and its inclusion in national security briefings made to then-President Obama and President-Elect Donald Trump, BuzzFeed rushed to publish the full document.

But in doing so, BuzzFeed failed to redact specific and unverified claims made against specified businesses and the man behind them.

Gubarev and XBT, the parent company which runs Webzilla, were named at the end of the dossier as being responsible for hacking into Democratic computers. The hacks occurred, but the precise perpetrators are still unknown.

Many of the Democratic files obtained through the hacks were passed to WikiLeaks, which published them last summer. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks began posting the emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, on a daily basis.

The method used to grab these files were computer “bots” and pornographic email traps. But Gubarev’s attorney, Val Gurvits of Boston, told LifeZette on Friday that his client was not behind the hacking, and claimed that XBT has suffered extensive damage to its reputation.

XBT is a $250 million company based in Luxembourg. Since the publication of the dossier on Jan. 10, XBT has lost clients, had one prospective employee decline a job offer, and lost $7 million in credit lines, Gurvits said.

Gurvits said BuzzFeed made no attempt to contact Gubarev before naming him and his company — even though the BuzzFeed reporters admitted in their article that the dossier they published contains errors and unverified claims. Most media outlets declined to post  or even refer to the document — which was shopped around to outlets before the election — because they could not verify the claims made.

“It contains outrageous allegations without a shred of support,” Gurvits told LifeZette on Friday. “They may as well have released a science fiction document … They openly said they could not verify anything.”

BuzzFeed’s admission will help Gubarev win the lawsuit, Gurvits claimed.

The court filing asserts the dossier publication represented “perhaps one of the most reckless and irresponsible moments in modern ‘journalism.'”

BuzzFeed has since said the inclusion of Gubarev and his businesses’ identity was an oversight.

“We have redacted Mr. Gubarev’s name from the published document and apologize for including it,” said Matt Mittenthal, spokesman for Buzzfeed News, in a statement. “We stand by our decision to publish the dossier, which was being circulated at the highest levels of government, but hidden from the public.”

Gurvits said in many ways it’s too late for an apology. Gubarev, a Lithuanian, has already become a target of criticism. His wife has been the subject of online harassment, added Gurvits.

Steele, the author of the controversial dossier, is also facing litigation, even though he did not cause the publication of the document he penned. In the United States, publication causation is a key test in libel suits, but not in Great Britain, said Gurvits.

However, suing Steele will still be complicated. He reportedly left London with his wife after the dossier went public. A former British spy in Moscow, Steele had his identity revealed by The Wall Street Journal and others shortly after the publication of the dossier. Steele reportedly fears retaliation from Russians over the sensational claims contained in his dossier.

Overall, the dossier’s publication seems to have caused chaos for everyone involved — except Trump.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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