Cyprus-based Russian businessman Aleksei Gubarev is suing Buzzfeed for defamation after they published an unproven 35-page dossier linking him to a supposed conspiracy theory. It claimed that Russian intelligence attacked the computers of Democratic Party leadership and blackmailed Donald Trump with lurid sex tapes. The suit alleges that Buzzfeed has done personal and financial harm to himself, his wife and his companies.
At the time the complaint was filed, the dossier had been viewed 5.9 million times. Gubarev’s attorneys wrote that Gubarev “has found his personal and professional reputation in tatters” and that his wife has received harassment online.
Gubarev runs a business of considerable scope. He is chairman and CEO of XBT Holdings, which owns Webzilla Inc., a Dallas based web hosting company. Gubarev operates 75,000 computer servers total worldwide. Both companies are mentioned in the dossier.
Gubarev denies all allegations contained in the dossier. He told the McClatchy DC Bureau that despite his role in the dossier no United States authorities have contacted him. With a vast global array of servers, Gubarev is highly aware and sensitive to any hacking or cyber-attacks against him.
The dossier alleges that Gubarev’s companies, XBT Holdings and Webzilla Inc., used “botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.” The dossier also claims that Gubarev was “recruited under duress by the FSB.” The FSB is the intelligence organization that succeeded the KGB after the fall of the Soviet Union. Gubarev’s attorneys assert that these claims are wholly false.
This is the same dossier that includes the now infamous “golden showers” claim. It says that while in Moscow in 2013 Donald Trump paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed that Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in, supposedly as a way of expressing his deep hatred for the Obamas. The dossier claims that Russian intelligence is holding proof of this occurrence over Trump’s head, compromising his ability to act in America’s interests as President.
There is no proof for the validity of the material in the dossier, and the document has been widely viewed as a complete fabrication. Nonetheless, it has provided fodder for Donald Trump’s enemies to make insinuations against his character and his loyalty to the country.
In March 2016, a Florida jury awarded pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan $115 million in damages. He successfully sued Gawker Media for violation of privacy after they published a sex tape that damaged his career. This court decision led Gawker to close down the same year. It later turned out that tech-giant Peter Thiel, who is now an advisor to Donald Trump, donated $10 million to help fund Hogan’s case against Gawker, which outed Thiel as a gay man in 2007. Also according to Thiel, Gawker “ruined people’s lives for no reason.”
Gawker and Buzzfeed are similar types of outlets, and this could be an interesting case to watch, as a successful businessman goes after this media company for publishing rumors damaging to his career. It was a Florida jury that sided with Hogan, and Gubarev’s legal team is fighting to pursue the lawsuit in Florida. Buzzfeed wants to have it proceed in New York. Gubarev’s attorneys contest that request in their latest filing, arguing that there is grounds for conducting the trial in Florida and that Buzzfeed simply wants a New York court because it will be more favorable to them.
Buzzfeed News Editor Ben Smith, who made the decision to publish the dossier, defended his decision by saying that the public deserved to have access to this information. He argued that because many people in the media and government had seen the dossier, and certain people were referring to it as evidence, the public ought to see it too.
It is an interesting argument, and it is worth keeping in mind that the obviously false nature of the document undermines the credibility of news organizations and people in government and the intelligence community who were treating it as serious. It arguably helps Donald Trump in the long run to have this absurd document exposed.
On the other hand, its release has implanted the meme into the minds of committed opponents and haters of Trump that he really is compromised by the Russians. And when someone wants to stoop low in slandering the President, they can allude to this dossier. It would be absurd to think that Ben Smith did not know that releasing this document would do damage to Donald Trump, even if there are some potential upsides for Trump.
There is of course no potential upside for the Russian businessman Gubarev.
During a press conference Donald Trump called Buzzfeed a “failing pile of garbage.” The non-news side of Buzzfeed has produced divisive, aggressively anti-white content.
The dossier was put together by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, and given to the FBI by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Steele is the director of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence. Steele was an officer for MI6, the foreign intelligence agency of the British government. He has declined to be interviewed by newspapers. He was born in Saudi Arabia, and was known as a “confirmed Socialist” during his days at Cambridge University. He was recruited straight out of Cambridge into MI6 and worked as an agent in Moscow.
The way the dossier came into being reveals the widespread bipartisan fear of Donald Trump winning the election. This intrigue with the dossier and the continued promotion of the Trump as Russian agent narrative are indicative of the deep institutional resistance to Donald Trump. He is a total outsider with many policy goals that go against the establishment grain, which helped him become President.
Concerned parties in the Republican party during the primary process contacted the private research firm Fusion GPS to do research on Trump to look into possible connections between Trump and Russia. After Trump secured the nomination, Democrats took over the financing of the Fusion GPS opposition research, suggesting significant closeness between certain Republicans and Democrats. After the Democrats took over the operation, Steele was contacted to do research. Steele then passed on his research to both British and American intelligence.
Later on, the British Ambassador to Moscow alerted John McCain to the existence of the dossier, who obtained it and passed it on to FBI director James Comey. A two-page summary was presented to then-President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump in meetings with intelligence heads.
The consequences of Republicans and Democrats working together to produce this dossier will continue to play out for President Trump and for Russian businessman Aleksei Gubarev. Patriots can only hope that any wrongdoers in this debacle face consequences as well.