The news site BuzzFeed on Tuesday moved to dismiss a defamation suit that resulted from its publication of an intelligence dossier that alleged Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia.
The lawsuit, filed by tech mogul and Russian venture capitalist Aleksej Gubarev, seeks damages from BuzzFeed for publishing uncorroborated opposition research that named Gubarev and his Luxembourg-based company.
A former British spy, Christopher Steele, was hired first by Republicans, then by Democrats, to prepare opposition research on Trump during the presidential campaign. Among its various and sometimes salacious allegations, the dossier claimed that the Gubarev-owned web-hosting and storage enterprises Webzilla and XBT were key to the exposure of Democratic Party emails last year.
The hacked emails proved embarrassing to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as well as the party.
“We look forward to resolving this matter quickly and continue to stand by our decision to publish the dossier, which was being circulated at the highest levels of government, but hidden from the public,” said Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for BuzzFeed News.
In its motion, BuzzFeed argued that the defamation suit should either be dismissed or moved to the Southern District of New York, where BuzzFeed is headquartered and “where the events giving rise to plaintiffs’ cause of action occurred.” Now the suit is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. Gubarev filed the suit in Florida.
The news outlet claims that Gubarev’s businesses are not based in Florida.
Since Gubarev filed the lawsuit, BuzzFeed has redacted his name from the online version of the dossier and has apologized to him.
The controversial dossier had been circulating in Washington’s media, political and intelligence circles for a while, but seemed too radioactive to publicize because its allegations about Trump and Russia remained unproven. BuzzFeed published it in January after CNN reported that intelligence officials had briefed then-President-elect Trump and President Barack Obama on it.
Media outlets, including McClatchy, have since reported on aspects of the dossier’s allegations that lend some credence to its claims. Steele, the British former MI6 agent who disappeared in the immediate wake of the dossier’s publication, reportedly in fear for his life, has since resurfaced. Gubarev has filed a similar suit against Steele.
Several investigations in the U.S., including inquiries by the Senate, House of Representatives, and intelligence and law enforcement agencies, are looking into claims about the Trump campaign’s links to the Kremlin.
Since Trump’s inauguration, his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned over a disclosure that he had met with the Russian ambassador and possibly lied to the FBI about whether they discussed U.S. economic sanctions against Moscow.
Trump’s attorney general, former Sen. Jeff Sessions, withheld information during his Senate confirmation hearing that he, too, had met with the Russian ambassador. Under political pressure, Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.