Former US President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against retired spy Christopher Steele in a British court, alleging that Steele’s “dossier” on the Republican politician’s alleged ties to Russia violated UK data protection laws. In the lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers claim that Steele’s actions caused personal and reputational damage to Trump and violated British laws.
The “dossier” in question, which was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, claimed that Russia had compromising information on Trump and was using it to blackmail him. The dossier alleged that Trump had engaged in unorthodox behavior in Russia and had provided material for potential blackmail. However, Trump’s lawyers argue that the information in the dossier was inaccurate and that Steele failed to ensure its accuracy.
Steele, a retired British intelligence operative, officially worked for Fusion GPS, a political research firm based in Washington, DC. The dossier was commissioned by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and was funded through Perkins Coie, a law firm representing the Democratic National Committee. Despite claims made by US media outlets and Democrats that the dossier was substantiated, none of the claims in it have been proven to be true.
The primary sub-source of the dossier, Igor Danchenko, a Russian national working for a Washington think-tank, later admitted to the FBI that much of the information he provided was based on rumors he couldn’t confirm. The FBI, however, continued to use the dossier to renew its FISA warrant to spy on Trump’s administration through campaign aide Carter Page.
Steele has admitted to sharing the dossier with American journalists but denies promoting it since its publication. He claims that the dossier was written on a computer not connected to a network, making the data secure. Steele’s lawyers argue that the lawsuit against their client is frivolous and abusive and have moved to dismiss it.
It is worth noting that Orbis Business Intelligence, Steele’s company, has previously lost a data privacy lawsuit related to the dossier. Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven, executives at Alfa Bank, were awarded damages in 2020 based on false claims by Steele that they had made illicit payments to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The lawsuit between Trump and Steele is set to be heard in the British High Court starting on October 16. The outcome of the case could have implications for both privacy laws in the UK and the broader controversy surrounding the dossier and its use in the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.