Trump lawyer Cohen sues BuzzFeed, Fusion over dossier allegations
10 January 2018
Michael Cohen, long time personal attorney for President Donald Trump, filed two defamation lawsuits Tuesday evening against research firm Fusion GPS and news site BuzzFeed.
Cohen sued Buzzfeed Inc for defamation over allegations about him in a dossier the news organisation published that was commissioned in 2016 by the president's political opponents.
Cohen said he also filed a second defamation suit against political intelligence firm Fusion GPS, which compiled the dossier. Buzzfeed published the dossier in its entirety nearly a year ago, which it said it obtained from a source it didn't identify.
The Fusion GPS lawsuit, which was filed at a federal court level, seeks $100 million in damages. A separate amount in damages for the BuzzFeed lawsuit, which was filed at the state court level, will be determined at trial, according to court documents obtained by media.
The dossier contains unverified claims that Cohen and Trump had suspicious connections with Russian figures. Most other US news organizations declined to publish the document because many of its claims - some of them salacious - haven't been substantiated.
''It will be proven that I had no involvement in this Russian collusion conspiracy,'' Cohen said in an interview on Tuesday. ''My name was included only because of my proximity to the president.''
Cohen also tweeted, "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!"
Fusion GPS commissioned the so-called Steele dossier, a controversial compilation of alleged ties between Trump and Russia. Compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, the dossier has since been a focus of congressional probes investigating whether Russia interfered with the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Cohen's complaint against Buzzfeed names editor-in-chief Ben Smith, reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs, who were the bylines on the article Buzzfeed published accompanying the dossier. Cohen said he's mentioned in the dossier 15 times.
''The dossier is, and continues to be, the subject of active investigations by Congress and intelligence agencies. It was presented to two successive presidents, and has been described in detail by news outlets around the world. Its interest to the public is obvious,'' Buzzfeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said in a statement. ''We look forward to defending the free press and our First Amendment rights in court.''
A transcript of the interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson by the Senate Judiciary Committee last summer was published on Tuesday. Simpson told congressional leaders that the FBI found the dossier credible because an undisclosed "human source" associated with Trump had offered the bureau corroborating information.
BuzzFeed published the dossier in January 2017, noting that the allegations were unverified and the report contained errors.
The dossier claims that Cohen met with Russian operatives somewhere in Europe, including Prague, to attend a meeting to ''clean up the mess'' created by public disclosures of other Trump associates' reported ties to Russia.
Cohen has denied that a Prague meeting occurred, saying that he has never been to the Czech Republic. In May 2017, Cohen provided a copy of his passport to BuzzFeed that showed it had been stamped for entry and exit to the United Kingdom and Italy.
Cohen alleges he "sustained significant financial and reputational damages" due to the publication of the dossier on BuzzFeed's website, according to court documents in the BuzzFeed lawsuit. In addition, Cohen claims he was subjected to at least two separate Congressional investigations, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, due to the dossier being published.
He declined to say whether he has been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is directing the FBI's investigation of Russia's activities in the election.
He said that he and Trump ''don't talk about'' the Russia investigations. ''Why waste time talking about something that's not legitimate,'' he said.