- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Some Trump associates are contemplating lawsuits against the people who they believe defamed them in the Russia election collusion investigation.

A possible road map: the successful lawsuit of wrongly suspected biological weapons scientist Steven Hatfill, who accepted a multimillion-dollar settlement in 2008.

Several former Trump campaign officials are in early discussions about lawsuits, which ultimately might not be filed given the significant cost.

The targets would be government investigators, journalists and Twitter users who have accused the Trump supporters of crimes in a what they incorrectly said was a Moscow election conspiracy.

“Some of us are talking, as are our attorneys,” former campaign adviser Michael Caputo told The Washington Times.

Said another Trump-connected person: “Government entities and individuals subject to litigation are currently under review. Regarding the media, there are some old names … pointing to leaks from law enforcement and intelligence community, plus congressional committees. And major media outlets.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s final Russia report found no conspiracy among Trump associates. Prime media targets, such as former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and volunteer George Papadopoulos, essentially were cleared. Their conduct amounted to networking with some figures with ties to Russia but not a conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election.

Manafort, now in prison on tax and bank fraud convictions, has threatened to sue The Guardian newspaper for falsely reporting that he secretly traveled to London in 2016 to meet with WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks published Democratic Party emails that Moscow had stolen.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has sued a Twitter user whom he accuses of falsely accusing him of crimes. Mr. Nunes became a prime target of the left after he began an investigation into a dossier financed by the Democratic Party. The document contained a host of discredited conspiracy charges against Trump associates sourced to unidentified Kremlin operatives.

The prospective Trump plaintiffs are eyeing the case of Mr. Hatfill, an Army scientist wrongly suspected by the FBI in the 2001 anthrax mail attacks that killed five people. In 2008, Mr. Hatfill received a $4.6 million settlement in his lawsuit against the Justice Department.

He accused the FBI of violating privacy laws by leaking information about him to the press. Mr. Hatfill, now 65, suffered from intense media and FBI scrutiny, with accusatory news articles as well as bureau raids and wiretaps.

Mr. Hatfill filed a libel lawsuit against The New York Times but lost. Judges ruled that he was a public figure and thus had to prove that the stories about him were wrong and that journalists showed malice in printing them.

The Trump-Russia saga has no signs of ending for people who went to work for President Trump. Led by Democrats, four House committees are investigating all aspects of his life, including how he built his real estate empire and created the lucrative, iconic Trump brand.

Before Mr. Mueller released his no-conspiracy report, a smattering of defamation lawsuits were aimed at journalists and the dossier writer, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. No plaintiff has won so far.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen sued Hillary Clinton’s opposition research firm Fusion GPS, the dossier’s paymaster. He also sued BuzzFeed, which published the document on Jan. 10, 2017. The dossier made a number of conspiracy charges against Cohen, headlined by an assertion that he traveled to Prague to orchestrate a cover-up.

The Mueller team concluded that Cohen didn’t go to Prague. Cohen dropped his lawsuit amid his own legal quagmire that eventually led to a guilty plea to tax and campaign finance violations and a prison sentence.

Carter Page, a former campaign volunteer, is acting as his own attorney. He sued Yahoo News, which wrote the first dossier story in September 2016. The dossier accused Mr. Page of meeting with two cronies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and agreeing to bribes for sanctions relief. No proof surfaced in the Mueller investigation, and a judge dismissed the case.

Mr. Page also is suing the Democratic National Committee, which helped pay for the dossier. The FBI wiretapped Mr. Page for a year largely based on the dossier as evidence for a warrant. A U.S. District judge in Oklahoma dismissed the lawsuit this year, saying he lacked jurisdiction. Part of Mr. Page’s allegations is that he is the victim of terroristic threats, some of which came from Oklahoma.

To gain more evidence, Mr. Page sent a May 19 letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray titled “Second request for disclosure of FBI information related to terror threats from Oklahoma and other dossier-related damages.”

He accused the DNC of “the obliteration of my reputation.”

“Due to the terror threats and my status as a de facto international fugitive as I have continued my attempt to avoid the vigilante justice system amidst the safety risks that this situation has created in America, I will again be departing the country until May 24, 2019,” Mr. Page told Mr. Wray. “Thank you in advance for your assistance in remedying these extensive injustices over the coming days.”

The heads of Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest with 752 offices in the country and abroad, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Steele and Fusion in Washington, D.C., and in federal court in the nation’s capital, and against Mr. Steele in London. The dossier said Alfa executives were involved in election interference, which they deny. A D.C. court threw out the Steele defamation complaint, which is being appealed.

Russian tech entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev filed a lawsuit against BuzzFeed in Florida and against Mr. Steele in London. A federal judge dismissed the BuzzFeed case, saying the news site had a right to publish the 35-page dossier under the fair reporting principle. Mr. Gubarev has appealed the ruling. His defamation lawsuit in London appears headed to trial later this year.

Mr. Steele said Mr. Gubarev conducted the hacking on Democratic computers. Mr. Gubarev has said he had no such role.

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