Politics

BuzzFeed Loses Pair of Motions in ‘Trump Dossier’ Lawsuit

Judge will hear case over outlet's publication of unverified claims, keeps suit in Florida court

A lawsuit against BuzzFeed over the publication of the so-called “Trump Dossier” will go forward, and not in New York City as the left-wing media outlet’s lawyers had hoped.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled against a motion filed by BuzzFeed, which asked to move the case to New York, where BuzzFeed is headquartered. BuzzFeed also unsuccessfully filed to have the case dismissed.

The dossier had floated for months before the election, but no journalistic outlet would publish it because it could not be verified.

BuzzFeed now has to answer questions about the case before June 9.

The lawsuit against BuzzFeed was brought earlier in the year by Aleksej Gubarev, the CEO of XBT and Webzilla, who complained the news website published a dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, that contained scurrilous charges against Gubarev.

The dossier became an Internet sensation just before President Donald Trump took office as it alleged, without evidence or verification, that Russian spy agencies had dirt on Trump, including tapes of Trump associating with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. The dossier, written by Steele, had floated for months before the election, but no journalistic outlet would publish it because it could not be verified.

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After CNN reported in January 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 on Jan. 10. (CNN did not publish the actual document.)

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But in doing so, BuzzFeed published parts of the dossier that slurred Gubarev, according to Gubarev’s attorney, Val Gurvits of Boston. Gubarev’s companies were named at the end of the dossier as being responsible for hacking into Democratic computers in 2016.

The hacks occurred, but the precise perpetrators are still unknown. U.S. intelligence agencies blame Russian spies for the hacks, and for leaking the materials to WikiLeaks.

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, according to the dossier. But Gurvits told LifeZette last February that his client was not behind the hacking, and claimed that XBT and Webzilla suffered extensive damage to their reputations, lost lines of credit, and a blow to any potential sales values of the companies.

BuzzFeed’s attorney, Matt Mittenthal, did not immediately return a message from LifeZette.

Gurvits told LifeZette on Tuesday that he is not sure if BuzzFeed wanted a friendlier jury in the New York City area. Gurvits said Americans anywhere “take very seriously statements that could ruin someone’s [life].”

Gurvits said Gubarev, a Lithuanian who has lived in Cyprus since 2002, has suffered harassment since being named in the unedited dossier.

Gurvits confirmed that Gubarev is also still suing Steele, the former British spy, who used to work in Moscow.

Steele claimed in legal paperwork in late April that the 35-page dossier was never meant for public consumption.

Further, Steele identified Gubarev because of “unsolicited intelligence” and “raw intelligence” that “needed to be analyzed and further investigated [or] verified,” according to The Washington Times.

Steele claimed BuzzFeed is solely responsible for the publication.

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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