Less than 24 hours after a federal judge appeared to deliver a setback to the online publication BuzzFeed in a defamation lawsuit over the infamous Christopher Steele intelligence dossier, the lawsuit in question was dismissed by the same judge, according to a report BuzzFeed itself published on Thursday. The lawsuit was filed by a Russian technology entrepreneur, whose name appeared in the dossier that detailed alleged deep ties between Donald Trump and Russian officials, including the infamous “pee tape” episode.
As Inquisitr has covered extensively, the dossier was compiled by former British intelligence agent and Russia expert Christopher Steele, and it contains numerous details — many of which have been corroborated but none yet confirmed, as Lawfare reported last week — of Trump’s alleged Russia connections.
The most notorious episode described in the dossier allegedly occurred in Moscow during Trump’s visit there in November 2013 for the Miss Universe beauty pageant, which he then owned. As Inquisitr has reported, the dossier claims that Trump hired Russia prostitutes to perform a “golden shower” show for him, urinating on the bed in the Moscow Ritz-Carlton on which President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had recently slept. The compromising activity, the dossier claimed, was secretly filmed by Russian intelligence agents to use as leverage over Trump.
However, the defamation lawsuit was not provoked by the “pee tape” episode, but by the mention in the dossier of Russian tech entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, who operates a large web server company and was named along with his company, XBT, as connected to the Russian hacking of Democratic Party email servers.
The dossier alleged that the Russian security service known as the FSB had pressured Gubarev to participate in the hacking operation, but according to a McClatchy News report, Gubarev said that he had no idea why his name appeared in the report and had no indication that his company’s servers were used in the Russian election hacking plot.
BuzzFeed published the Steele dossier online in January of 2017. The following month, Gubarev sued BuzzFeed for defaming him by publishing the dossier with his name included, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
On Tuesday, United States Southern District of Florida federal court judge Ursula Ungaro ruled that Gubarev was not a public figure, as Politico reported, meaning that Gubarev could win the lawsuit by showing only that BuzzFeed was “negligent” in publishing the dossier, not that the site published the document with “actual malice.”
But Ungaro on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit anyway, ruling that the dossier was part of an “official proceeding,” making its publication protected by the First Amendment constitutional guarantee of press freedom, Variety reported.
My statement: pic.twitter.com/apt7j3BToX
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) December 19, 2018
BuzzFeed was protected because the constitution guarantees the press the right to “gather information needed for the public to exercise effective oversight of the government,” Ungaro wrote in her ruling. But Ungaro made no ruling on whether the allegations against Gubarev, or any of the details contained in the dossier, were true or false.