President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen withdrew a pair of defamation lawsuits Wednesday against BuzzFeed and the opposition research firm Fusion GPS over the controversial Steele dossier.
Mr. Cohen had sued for libel, but he decided to pull the lawsuits after the FBI seized records from his hotel room last week. On Monday, a federal judge denied his request to review the documents that were seized before prosecutors see them.
On Thursday, Mr. Cohen’s legal team called the decision to discontinue the case against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS “a difficult one.”
“We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen’s rights was — and still remains — important. But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits,” Mr. Cohen’s attorney David Schwartz said in a statement.
The unverified dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee and compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, claimed Mr. Cohen traveled to Europe in the summer of 2016, and specifically Prague, to meet with Russian operatives to “clean up the mess” over disclosures of other Trump associates’ reported ties to Russia.
In the suit, Mr. Cohen accused BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith of publishing the document “in spite of his awareness that the Dossier was … not intended to be part of public discourse or to make an argument in a public debate and that the Dossier’s content also bore multiple hallmarks of its irresponsible collection and compilation.”
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Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the document as “false and fake” and part of “witch hunt” to undermine his presidency while Mr. Cohen has denied ever visiting the Czech capital for the meeting.
In a statement, BuzzFeed called the suit against it meritless.
“The lawsuits against BuzzFeed over the Steele dossier have never been about the merits of our decision to publish it,” Matt Mittenthal, director of communications for BuzzFeed, said in a statement. “If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on today, it’s that the dossier was an important part of the government’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Its interest to the public is, and always has been, obvious.”
“Today’s news suggests that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer no longer thinks an attack on the free press is worth his time,” he added.
Meanwhile, Fusion GPS said it welcomed Mr. Cohen’s decision.
“With his decision, it appears that Mr. Cohen can now focus on his many other legal travails,” the firm said in a statement.
In a separate legal matter, Mr. Cohen is also entangled in a court battle with porn star Stormy Daniels over a hush-money settlement reached weeks before the 2016 election.
The case involves a $130,000 payment he made to her as part of a nondisclosure agreement to keep her quiet about an affair she alleges she had with Mr. Trump in 2006. Ms. Daniels claims the agreement is invalid because she says Mr. Trump never signed it.