A London court on Wednesday ordered Christopher Steele, author of the anti-Trump dossier, to submit to questions from American attorneys suing him for libel on behalf of a Russian entrepreneur.
A senior master in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench, rejected Mr. Steele’s argument that British law prohibited an ex-spy such as himself from testifying.
“On Mr. Steele’s behalf it was said that the examination would be prohibited by English law which is untrue,” said the 39-page order obtained by the Washington Times.
The senior master said he had “come to the conclusion that Mr. Steele does have relevant evidence to give for trial in the U.S. proceeding.”
At issue is the final December 2016 memo in the dossier which, in total, accuses President Trump and aides of a list of felonies in supposedly colluding with the Kremlin during the 2016 election. None of the charges has been substantiated publicly.
The December memo, which Mr. Steele derived from unsolicited and unverified intelligence, said that Russian entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev directly participated in the hacking of Democrat Party computers.
BuzzFeed posted the entire dossier on Jan. 10, 2107. Mr. Gubarev filed a libel suit against the news site. The case is now scheduled for trial in August in U.S. District Court in Florida.
Mr. Gubarev’s Boston Law Group attorneys will get a chance to question Mr. Steele who to date has limited himself to public comments in journalist interviews.
The British senior master, however, limited the scope. They will not be able to ask Mr. Steele about his Russian sources, who, if exposed, the order said, could face arrest and death at the hands of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Mr. Gubarev has sued Mr. Steele and his Orbis Business Intelligence, in the London court, but the rules are different.
In the U.S., he is trying to prove that what BuzzFeed published is false.
In the London case, Mr. Steele’s attorneys are not arguing that the December memo is true.
The issue, according to Wednesday’s order, is whether Mr. Steele played a role in having the information reach the public.
The order states, “In the [Queen’s Bench] proceedings the key issue is whether Mr Steele/Orbis were responsible for the publication of the defamatory statement. Thus, the factual enquiry in the English proceedings will not focus on the truth or falsity of the defamatory allegation which is presumed to be false, and the QB Defendants have not contended otherwise. (This is contrary to the position in the Florida proceedings where the US Plaintiffs have the burden of proving that the allegations are false). “
Mr. Steele also sought to limit the number of hours he must spend answering questions from Gubarev and BuzzFeed attorneys.
The senior master granted a total of seven hours. Mr. Steele wanted BuzzFeed’s time cut from three hours to 30 minutes, but the master did not agree.