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LONDON — Donald Trump’s legal battles crossed the Atlantic on Monday with the start of a hearing against a former MI6 officer’s intelligence consultancy, which Trump says caused him “personal and reputational damage and distress.”
The 45th president is bringing a claim against Christopher Steele, a former British spy, and his consultancy, Orbis Business Intelligence, for alleged data protection breaches following the leak of an explosive dossier containing allegations that Russia had compromising material on Trump.
Steele was the author of what’s known as the Steele dossier, which made extravagant allegations about contacts between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russian officials and said that Trump engaged in “perverted sexual acts,” which were monitored by Russian security services. Many of the allegations were never proved.
Trump Trials: Hear them out
Trump previously dismissed the dossier as “fake news” and called Steele a “failed spy.”
Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for Trump, told a London court on Monday that Trump was preparing to give evidence in the London court to deny “scandalous” claims — including allegations that Trump took part in “sex parties” in St. Petersburg, hired prostitutes in Moscow and bribed Russian officials to advance his business interests. Tomlinson is a high-profile lawyer whose clients have included King Charles III and David and Victoria Beckham.
In filings to London’s High Court, Trump denies all of the allegations in the report and is seeking unspecified compensation for inflicting “personal and reputational damage and distress.”
Trump’s lawyers said in their filing that he was “compelled to explain to his family, friends, and colleagues that the embarrassing allegations about his private life were untrue. This was extremely distressing for the Claimant.”
Lawyers for Orbis, a London-based firm founded by former British intelligence professionals, are seeking to have the case thrown out on the grounds that it doesn’t have a real prospect of succeeding and has been brought too late.
Steele is a former British spy who at one point was in charge of the service’s Russia desk. He wrote the report for a private investigation firm that was hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The dossier was leaked to BuzzFeed, which published it in early 2017. After Steele was revealed as the person who assembled the report, he briefly went into hiding.
This is not the first time that Steele and Orbis have been sued over the dossier in British courts.
In 2020, Britain’s High Court dismissed a libel claim by Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev. A judge ruled that, while references in the report were defamatory and caused harm to Gubarev’s reputation, Steele could not be held responsible for the report becoming public.
In a separate case, Orbis was ordered to pay Russian oligarchs Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman $22,000 each after they brought a case claiming the dossier contained inaccurate personal data relating to them that was noncompliant under data protection laws.
Trump is fighting several cases in U.S. federal and state courts. The hearing in London is scheduled for two days. A decision is expected at a later date.