Donald Trump is trying to sue in a UK court over the “Steele Dossier” that alleged he bribed officials and took part in sex parties in Russia in the years before he was elected president.
The former president’s lawyers told the High Court he is seeking “vindication” for the false allegations from 2017, which he claims were damaging to his reputation.
They claim the document breaches UK data protection laws.
Mr Steele’s company, Orbis Business Intelligence, says it did not make the document public.
Trump was not present for the high court hearing, which will determine whether the case can go to trial. However, in a written witness statement, he said: “The only way that I can fully demonstrate the total inaccuracies of the personal data in the dossier is to bring these proceedings and to prove, by evidence at trial, that the data are false.
“A judgment of the English court on this issue will be an immense relief to me as it will completely confirm the true position to the public at large. Until there is such a judgment, I continue to suffer damage and distress as a result of people wrongfully believing that the data in the dossier is accurate.”
Trump is claiming reputational damage as a result of Orbis sharing the dossier, which he said contained “false, phoney or made-up allegations”, with three individuals.
In 2017, it was published by BuzzFeed. Although Trump accepts that Orbis was not legally responsible for this, he said: “If the dossier had not been compiled by Mr Steele on behalf of the defendant, it would never have entered the public domain.”
Mr Steele, the former head of MI6’s Russia desk, later sent his findings to the FBI, a British national security officer and an aide to a senior US senator.
On Monday the High Court was told in written submissions that the dossier detailed untrue allegations that Mr Trump had “engaged in perverted sexual behaviour”.
Hugh Tomlinson KC, for the 77-year-old former president, said the dossier also falsely claimed he had “paid bribes to Russian officials to further his business interests” and “took part in sex parties in St Petersburg”.
“[He] intends to discharge his burden by giving evidence in this court,” the lawyer said, should the case go to full trial in the future.
The allegations, the court heard, were at the heart of the claim for damages because they amounted to a breach of the UK’s strict data protection laws that govern what can be done with personal information, even if the information is not true.
“The [dossier] contains shocking and scandalous claims about the personal conduct of President Trump,” Mr Tomlinson said. “The defendant has never sought to qualify or withdraw the allegation.”
He said that Mr Trump “often expresses himself in very strong language and his interactions with the US legal system have been many and varied.”
“None of this is relevant to the question of whether the personal data is accurate.”
He said Mr Trump “begins this case because he seeks a vindication of his legal rights… that the statements in these memoranda are false.”
In his witness statement, Mr Trump told the court he had not had time to sue in the UK before now because he had been busy being president.
“None of these things [in the Steele dossier] ever happened,” the statement said.
“I can confirm that I did not, at any time engage in perverted sexual behaviour including the hiring of prostitutes to engage in ‘golden showers’ in the presidential suite of a hotel in Moscow.
He said the defendant “has made no attempt and provided no evidence to prove that the allegations I complain of are true”.
Mr Trump said official investigations had debunked the dossier but it continued “to cause me significant damage and distress” because people still believed it.
“The only way that I can fully demonstrate the total inaccuracies … is to begin these proceedings. A judgment of the English court on this issue will be an immense relief to me.”
Antony White KC, for Orbis, told the court that Mr Trump had accepted that the company was not responsible for BuzzFeed’s publication of the document.
Watched on by Mr Steele, Mr White told Mrs Justice Steyn the case had no realistic prospect of winning and the former president had run out of time to even start it.
Orbis had never intended the dossier to become public and had long ago destroyed its own copies of the research.
“The claim for compensation is principally based on reputational damage allegedly suffered by the claimant,” Mr White said.
“Any reputational damage, and any resulting distress, allegedly suffered will have been caused by the BuzzFeed publication, for which the claimant accepts Orbis is not liable.”
The hearing before Mrs Justice Steyn concluded today. Judgment has been reserved.
Source: BBC, The Guardian.