This story is nearly a fitting denouement to the entire Trump dossier-Russia collusion fraud and debacle.
In January 2017, BuzzFeed decided to publish the entire Trump dossier. Other media outlets had resisted the effort because virtually nothing in the dossier can be proven or disproven. Yes, Carter Page traveled to Russia, but it is impossible to verify that he met with certain Russians to discuss specific subjects. Yes, a guy named Michael Cohen did visit Prague. No, it was not Trump’s attorney of the same name. And on and on.
One of the people mentioned in the dossier is a, naturally, Russian businessman named Aleksej Gubarev. Gubarev owns several web-hosting operations and the dossier claims he directed “botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”
Gubarev sued BuzzFeed and the case is pending in federal court in Miami.
Gubarev is asserting that he is a private person, not a public figure. If that assertion holds up, then Gubarev only has to prove BuzzFeed was negligent in publishing the dossier which exposed his reputation to harm. Given what happened to Gawker when Hulk Hogan sued them, they are not anxious to have a jury impose damages especially when the garbage BuzzFeed regularly posts is entered into evidence.
The key element for BuzzFeed is showing the claim was truthful…or failing that at least plausible. To that end, they have to demonstrate that the DNC emails were actually the result of a hack by an outside party. That fact has never been proven in a way that would be acceptable in a criminal proceeding (IANAL). There has never been a forensic analysis of the DNC’s server. The FBI approached the DNC to gain access but were told to bugger off. And they did. Keep in mind this was claimed to be the hack of a major political party by a foreign actor, perhaps under the direction of a foreign intelligence service. But the FBI, instead of executing a pre-dawn raid, simply did what they were told.
Rather than allowing the FBI to investigate, the DNC, via the same lawyer who hired Fusion GPS, hired a private cyber-security firm called Crowdstrike. The problems with Crowdstrike is that its principals have close ties to members of the Clinton campaign and one of them has ties to Ukraine. Were that not enough, a lot of cybersecurity professionals have challenged the findings of Crowdstrike. I’m agnostic over the opinions of the geeks wrestling in Jell-O beyond saying that, in my opinion, there is absolutely zero evidence produced by any law enforcement or U.S. intelligence agency–that we know of–that can prove the DNC emails were actually hacked and that the hacker can be identified with any degree of confidence.
So if the DNC server was NOT hacked, then BuzzFeed is in deep crap. Even if they were hacked and they can’t show Gubarev was behind it at the behest of the Russian government, then this may be a damned expensive journalism lesson for BuzzFeed. We can only hope.
Via Daily Caller:
The suit against the DNC seeks information that could help defend against a defamation lawsuit filed by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive accused in the dossier of using his web hosting companies to hack into the DNC’s computer systems.
Gubarev denies the allegations and has argued that BuzzFeed failed to verify the dossier before publishing the report in January 2017. Steele, a former MI6 officer, has acknowledged in a London court, where he is being sued by Gubarev, that the information about the tech executive had not been verified.
“As part of the discovery process, BuzzFeed is attempting to verify claims in the dossier that relate to the hacking of the DNC,” BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenhal said in a statement. “We’re asking a federal court to force the DNC to follow the law and allow BuzzFeed to fully defend its First Amendment rights.”
BuzzFeed filed the suit after the DNC refused to comply with a subpoena that the website issued in November. DNC lawyers expressed concern that complying with the subpoena would put donor information and voter data at risk.
“If these documents were disclosed, the DNC’s internal operations, as well as its ability to effectively achieve its political goals, would be harmed,” DNC lawyers said last month in response to the BuzzFeed subpoena.
BuzzFeed says it only wants information on the “digital remnants left by the Russian state operatives” that hacked the DNC’s systems.
BuzzFeed also seeks a full version of a report compiled by CrowdStrike, a cyber security firm that the DNC hired to investigate the breach of its computer networks.
Without the documentation, BuzzFeed has a huge problem in avoiding a charge of negligence. They claimed that Gubarev was behind a hack of the DNC and they can’t even establish that the DNC was hacked.
There is no sign that the Democratic National Committee is going to voluntarily give up what BuzzFeed is demanding. If they don’t…and I don’t know that BuzzFeed’s case will be compelling to a court (IANAL)…one has to wonder why they wouldn’t.