MANHATTAN (CN) – President Donald Trump’s embattled attorney Michael Cohen dropped his defamation lawsuits against BuzzFeed, its editorial team and the intelligence firm that published what became known as the Russian dossier.
Had the lawsuits proceeded, Cohen’s attorneys may have had to provide the organizations with information about their client’s alleged meeting with Russian operatives in Prague — claims corroborated this past Friday in a McClatchy report.
“The decision to voluntarily discontinue these cases was a difficult one,” Cohen’s attorney David Schwartz said in a statement Thursday.
“We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen’s rights was — and still remains — important,” continued Schwartz, a partner at the firm Gerstman Schwartz & Malito. “But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits.”
BuzzFeed meanwhile is treating Cohen’s about-face as further vindication of its decision to publish what was already something of an open secret in Washington.
“The lawsuits against BuzzFeed over the Steele dossier have never been about the merits of our decision to publish it,” Buzzfeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said in a statement. “If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on today, it’s that the dossier was an important part of the government’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Its interest to the public is, and always has been, obvious. Today’s news suggests that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer no longer thinks an attack on the free press is worth his time.”
Recently confirmed as the target of a criminal investigation, Cohen claims that he no longer has the time to clear his name form the charges of a dossier compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele from the firm Fusion GPS.
The document alleged that Russian authorities cultivated Trump “for at least five years” in an effort supported and directed by its president Vladimir Putin. Cohen figured into the document in a section claiming that he met with Russian government representatives in Prague, Czech Republic, in August 2016.
Publishing the document 10 days before Trump’s inauguration, BuzzFeed warned that many of the allegations it contained could not be independently verified.
Cohen sued the news organization, its editor in chief Ben Smith, editors Miriam Elder and March Schoofs, and reporter Ken Bensinger this past January, and filed a separate lawsuit against Fusion GPS.
The Prague trip that he cast as defamatory found new corroboration on Friday.
Quoting anonymous sources within the Department of Justice, McClatchy reported that Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller found evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through a section of Germany where the borders are open.
Like President Trump, his most famous of three total clients, Cohen took to Twitter to heatedly deny the allegations.
“Bad reporting, bad information and bad story by same reporter Peter Stone @McClatchyDC,” Cohen claimed. “No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven!”
He did not specify what proof purportedly debunks McClatchy’s report.
Cohen still has another legal entanglement across the country as he and Trump are being sued by the porn actress Stormy Daniels in Los Angeles. On Friday morning, a federal judge there will hold a hearing to decide whether the criminal investigation Cohen faces in New York requires a 90-day delay of Daniels’ case.
Daniels is suing to invalidate a settlement she reached ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen insists that he paid Daniels $130,000 of his own money to stop her from speaking about a one-night stand she claims to have had with Trump, who denies the affair.
In New York meanwhile, where Cohen is fighting to check whether files seized by the FBI include privileged documents, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood formally allowed the Trump Organization on Thursday to intervene.
Cohen had worked for the Trump Organization for roughly a decade before becoming the president’s personal attorney in January 2017.
As noted by prosecutor Tom McKay at a hearing on Monday, however, there has been no assertion by the Trump Organization that Cohen retained its privileged materials since changing roles.
“Nowhere does it [the Trump Organization] state a belief or an assertion of fact that Mr. Cohen in fact took privileged materials with him over a year and a half ago and still has them in his possession,” McKay said. “And most corporations don’t permit employees to keep their privileged client files with them after they leave.”
The Trump Organization’s attorney Alan Futerfas requested at the hearing meanwhile that he be afforded an opportunity to make such a review.
“Mr. Cohen worked within the Trump Organization for 10 years,” Futerfas said. “He touched all kinds of matters. There were negotiations, litigation matters, IP, intellectual property matters, a whole range of things for the course of 10 years.”
CNN reported that Futerfas, a New York-based criminal attorney, has frequently represented organized crime and cybersecurity cases. Donald Trump Jr. retained him last year.