President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer announced Tuesday he is filing a defamation lawsuit against Buzzfeed News, the outlet responsible for publishing the infamous dossier alleging ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
But Buzzfeed, which released the unverified dossier one year ago, remains unapologetic, with Editor in Chief Ben Smith writing in a Tuesday New York Times op-ed that he is “proud” to have published the dossier.
The document in question not only included salacious claims about Donald Trump, but it also tried to connect his lawyer — Michael Cohen — to Russian figures.
Cohen says his name is mentioned in the dossier 15 times.
“It will be proven that I had no involvement in this Russian collusion conspiracy,” Cohen told Bloomberg News. “My name was included only because of my proximity to the president.”
Cohen’s suit specifically names Smith, as well as reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs, who shared the byline on the Buzzfeed story that accompanied the dossier’s release.
However, in his Times op-ed, titled “I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier,” Smith defended himself and the outlet. He claimed that “a year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news.”
Calling the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election “the central challenge to Mr. Trump’s presidency,” Smith noted that if his website did not publish the document, it would have been difficult for Americans to understand “the actions of their elected representatives and government officials.”
Smith went on to say that at the time of the document’s publication, multiple U.S. senators, then-President Barack Obama and even President-elect Trump himself knew about the document, as did the FBI.
Smith acknowledged the outrage directed at Buzzfeed due to the salacious allegations included in the document, but pushed back on the notion that there is a danger in journalists being “too transparent with their audience.”
“We strongly believed that publishing the disputed document whose existence we and others were reporting was in the public interest, he wrote.
Despite the fact that Republicans and those who support Trump have argued that given the partisan nature of the dossier, investigators have relied upon it too much in the Russia probe, Smith said that “some elements” of the document “have been corroborated.”
As evidence, he cited separate revelations regarding former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian diplomat Mikhail Kalugin, as well as reports of business deals that Trump at one point sought to have in Russia.
Smith also referenced the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 between Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer and pointed out that in the document, it is alleged that the Kremlin provided the Trump campaign with opposition intelligence.
“For all these reasons, the chorus of criticism of our decision to publish has faded. I haven’t had a single person approach me to say, ‘I wish I hadn’t read the dossier, and wish I had less insight into the forces at play in America,'” Smith concluded.
“Do you feel that way? Does anyone?”
In a statement to Bloomberg, Buzzfeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal echoed some of Smith’s sentiments.
“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,” Mittenthal said. “We look forward to defending the free press and our First Amendment rights in court.”
Trump’s longtime lawyer has previously testified before Congress as part of the probe into Russian interference.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.