MANHATTAN (CN) – Nearly a year since its publication, BuzzFeed’s article on what became known as the Russian dossier sparked two complaints Tuesday by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney.
Compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, the dossier contains opposition research on Trump that the private intelligence firm Fusion GPS sought to provide other Republicans before Trump clinched the party’s nomination.
Though its contents were the buzz of Washington in the lead-up to Trump’s inauguration, many news organizations elected not to publish the dossier for months.
BuzzFeed pressed ahead 10 days before Trump’s inauguration in an article warning that many of the salacious allegations the dossier contained could not be independently verified.
Represented by the firm Gerstman Schwartz & Malito, attorney Michael Cohen slams that news judgment in a 10-page complaint against the news website.
“Even though defendant BuzzFeed expressly acknowledged the unverified (and potentially unverifiable) nature of the dossier's allegations, defendant BuzzFeed published the un-redacted dossier and the article anyway - without attempting to determine the veracity of these reports with plaintiff himself,” the complaint states.
Cohen filed the complaint against BuzzFeed and its editor-in-chief Ben Smith in Manhattan Supreme Court. Also named as defendants are the article’s author Ken Bensinger, and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs.
In a separate federal complaint also filed Tuesday, Cohen takes aim at the Washington-based Fusion GPS and its principle Glenn Simpson.
Cohen depicts himself in the Fusion lawsuit as “collateral damage” in a campaign against Trump.
“The reports stated that [Cohen] met with representatives of the Russian government in Prague, Czech Republic, in August of 2016 in order to (1) ‘clean up’ the mess left by other representatives of candidate Trump; (2) figure out how to pay off the hackers who had been allegedly paid by the Trump campaign and the Russian government to undermine presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; and (3) ensure that the hacking operation continued and cover it up from later discovery, if necessary,” the 13-page complaint states.
Both complaints seek punitive damages for one count of defamation per se, referring to false reports that accuse someone of committing a crime.
Neither lawsuit mentions one of the dossier’s most tawdry allegations: that the Kremlin has a video of Trump hiring prostitutes to urinate on a bed in a Moscow hotel where Barack and Michelle Obama once stayed.
The same day as the lawsuit’s filing, BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief Ben Smith defended the dossier’s release as “unquestionably real news” in a New York Times editorial.
“That’s a fact that has been tacitly acknowledged even by those who opposed our decision to publish,” Smith wrote. “It has helped journalists explain to their audience the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election.”
Representatives for Fusion GPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cohen’s attorney David Schwartz meanwhile slammed what he called the dossier's "blatant lies and false statements."
"Mr. Cohen’s reputation has been permanently damaged by these false, reckless and unconscionable statements made about Mr. Cohen and although no amount of money can ever remedy the damage that has been sustained by Mr. Cohen, we will be seeking maximum damages for the lies contained in the so called dossier," the Garden City-based lawyer said in an email. "We believe in our courts and our system of justice and that when all the facts are in, justice will prevail and Mr. Cohen will be awarded damages against the defendants."
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