A British judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by former US President Donald Trump against ex-spy Christopher Steele over his infamous dossier alleging Russian interference in the 2016 election. The judge ruled that Trump’s reputation was not harmed by the unverified claims in the dossier.
Background on the Steele Dossier
The dossier, compiled in 2016 by Steele, a former MI6 agent, contained explosive and salacious allegations about Trump’s ties to Russia. Key points about the dossier:
|Christopher Steele, former MI6 agent
|Research firm Fusion GPS, initially for Trump’s Republican rivals
|– Trump collaborated with Russia on 2016 election interference
– Russia cultivated Trump for years before 2016
– Russians had compromising info on Trump’s “personal obsessions and sexual perversion”
|BuzzFeed News in January 2017
|Called it “fake news” and a “political witch hunt”
Though Trump decried the dossier as fiction, its allegations spurred multiple investigations into ties between Trump associates and Russia. Parts of the dossier were corroborated, but its most shocking claims remain unproven.
UK Judge Tosses Out Trump’s Lawsuit
On Thursday, a British judge dismissed Trump’s libel claim against Steele and his firm Orbis Business Intelligence. Trump filed the lawsuit in 2020, accusing Steele of harming his reputation via false claims in the dossier.
However, Mr Justice Michael Snow ruled that Trump’s reputation was not significantly damaged given his record of “nonchalant carelessness” towards the truth. The judge highlighted Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election as underscoring this point.
Furthermore, Snow emphasized most of the dossier’s content related to Trump’s ties to Russia, not the “lurid allegations” about Trump’s personal behavior that drew media buzz. The ruling is a blow to Trump’s yearslong battle to counter the shadow cast by Steele’s reporting.
Trump Vows Appeal, Legal Experts Doubtful
Incensed by the dismissal, Trump railed against the ruling as “so unfair,” lambasting the judge as a “lowlife” advancing a political agenda. Trump added he would appeal the “bad legal decision,” signaling another round in his war of attrition against Steele.
Nevertheless, legal experts view Trump’s chances of overturning the ruling as remote given the high bar for UK libel plaintiffs to prove reputational harm. His lawyers also face difficulties establishing Steele knowingly spread false information versus simply sharing unverified intelligence.
“This ruling should effectively end Trump’s crusade against the dossier barring some judicial fluke on appeal,” remarked attorney Rachel Cohrs. “The judge clearly conveyed that Steele’s reporting hasn’t sullied Trump’s reputation beyond what Trump himself has done through his own words and actions.”
Fallout and Implications
The dismissal represents Trump’s latest failed effort to delegitimize the Russia-related investigations bedeviling his political legacy. Special counsel Robert Mueller did not establish proof of a criminal Trump-Russia conspiracy. Regardless, the shadow of doubt lingers over Trump due to the unresolved dossier mysteries.
With Trump clearly seeking another White House run, his advisers hope to shift the focus toward present-day issues. However, the ex-president seems fixated on re-litigating past grudges related to the dossier, Russia probe, and 2020 election. This fixation risks distracting from his policy platform during the 2024 campaign cycle.
Moreover, the judge’s blunt ruling accentuates perceptions of Trump’s elastic relationship with the truth. With Trump’s credibility already a sore spot with swing voters, the stinging rebuke from a senior British jurist promises to bolster the line of attack from Trump’s political opponents as he vies for re-election.
In summary, the dismissal of Trump’s libel suit marks a symbolic defeat in his war against the dossier’s fallout. Though the most scandalous accusations remain unverified, Trump seems destined for endless legal and rhetorical battles seeking vindication from the dossier’s stubborn shadow over his presidency and political future.
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