A longtime personal lawyer for President Donald J. Trump has filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for the publication of the infamous Steele Dossier.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) January 10, 2018
“Enough is enough of the
#fake #RussianDossier. Just filed a defamation action against @BuzzFeedNews for publishing the lie filled document on @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and me,” said Michael D. Cohen on Twitter.
In a ten-page complaint filed in the New York Supreme Court, Cohen alleges defamation based on “false, damaging, and highly inflammatory statements” made about him in Steele dossier, which was published by BuzzFeed on Jan. 10, 2017.
BuzzFeed’s Editor-In-Chief Benjamin E. Smith, reporters Ken Bensinger and Miriam Elder, as well as projects editor Mark Schoofs are also listed as defendants.
“BuzzFeed admitted in the Article that the Dossier “include[d] specific, unverified and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives” and that “[t]he allegations are unverified,” the complaint said.
It also alleges that even though BuzzFeed expressly acknowledged the unverified and unverifiable nature of the some of the dossier’s allegations, that they published the un-redacted dossier and the article anyway – without attempting to determine the veracity of of the information with Cohen.
The dossier was produced by Christopher D. Steele, a former British intelligence officer, who was hired by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm contracted by Republican and Democrat interests to conduct research into Trump and other 2016 presidential candidates.
The dossier connects Cohen with the Russian Kremlin by listing specific ties that Cohen’s wife and father have to Russia, including that his father-in-law is a property developer in Moscow, and owns property in Sochi.
“His father that his father-in-law is not a leading property developer in Moscow, and in fact, [Cohen’s] father-in-law does not even own a vacation home in Sochi, nor has he ever been there,” the complaint said.
Additionally, the complaint said that Cohen’s wife was born in the Ukraine region and immigrated to the United States over 40 years ago, and that she has never been to Russia.
The full complaint lists numerous other allegedly untrue ties that Cohen has with Russia, including that he met with Russian government representatives in order to contain reports that other Trump associates were deeply tied with the Kremlin.
“The harm caused by these fallacious allegations is also clear: Plaintiff is once again linked to the unlawful election rigging conspiracy through baseless accusations, but this time through the implication that he was aware of the acts of two Trump campaign officials who have been themselves linked to this conspiracy and personally sought to conceal their illicit acts, and has been damaged in his profession,” it says.
The lawsuit was filed mere minutes after the New York Times, published an op-ed by Smith, in which he defends BuzzFeed’s publication of the dossier.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 10, 2018
“Our choice to publish the dossier was greeted by outrage from journalistic traditionalists didn’t like the idea of sharing an unfiltered, unverified document with the public, whatever the caveats and context,” Smith’s op-ed said.
“We never bought the notion, made by the traditionalists, that a main threat to journalism is that journalists might be too transparent with their audience.”