FILE – In this Friday, July 8, 2016, file photo, Carter Page, then adviser to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks at the graduation ceremony for the New Economic School in Moscow, Russia. Page, once a little-known investment banker-turned-adviser in the outer circle of the improbable Trump campaign, is emerging as a central figure in the controversy surrounding campaign connections to Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
Imagine being Democrats trying to fend off a lawsuit filed by former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page by relying on the veracity of the debunked Steele dossier. Well, that is exactly the action Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) lawyers are taking in an effort to dismiss legal action filed against them.
In January, Page filed a defamation lawsuit against the DNC and Perkins Coie, the firm who hired Steele to dig up opposition research on then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. The suit alleges that these entities “used false information, misrepresentations, and other misconduct to dire the power of the international intelligence apparatus and the media industry,” against him to “further their political agenda.”
The DNC’s legal team includes five lawyers, three of which served under the Obama administration. They are pushing to dismiss Page’s lawsuit, claiming that the “gist” of Steele’s dossier was accurate.
The team argued that Page’s defamation claims were filed after the statute of limitations and that he failed to give a plausible allegation of defamation. They also claimed the former Trump advisor did not prove any financial losses.
Ultimately, the DNC’s lawyers argued that “the allegedly defamatory statements” against Page “were substantially true.”
“Here, the ‘gist’ of the complained-of statements — that Page coordinated with Russian government contacts as an adviser to the Trump campaign — aligns with Page’s own description of his conduct. Page’s own allegations demonstrate the substantial truth of statements that Page traveled to Russia and met with associates of the Russian government. Plaintiffs’ defamation claims should be dismissed based on that basis alone.”
The Steele dossier erroneously claimed that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. According to the document, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort managed the conspiracy and used Page and others as intermediaries. Page’s lawsuit insists that he “did not and has not met with” the Russian individuals mentioned in the dossier.
However, the DNC’s argument might be as compelling as it seems. Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report pointed out that the authorities made at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” in relation to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that allowed the DOJ and FBI to surveil Page. His report also criticized the two agencies for its excessive dependence on the questionable claims made in the Steele dossier.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report also exposed the dossier’s misinformation. While the report acknowledged that the investigation “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,” it also notes that it “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” Horowitz’s report revealed that the FBI found no evidence that Page had met with Russian officials and castigated the FBI for concealing the former advisor’s many denials from the FISA court.
Former British spy Christopher Steele compiled the dossier when he was hired by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC through the Perkins Coie law firm. Page’s lawsuit alleges that “The DNC, through Perkins Coie, Elias, and Sussman, hired Fusion GPS not to report the truth but to create dirt.” It continues, “And they forged ahead with disseminating the defamatory information produced by Fusion GPS to further Defendants’ own political ambitions.”
It isn’t easy to predict how Page’s lawsuit will pan out. It is exceedingly difficult for a plaintiff to prove defamation in a court of law. However, it is clear that those involved in the effort to paint the former advisor as a conspirator with a foreign government based on unsubstantiated information engaged in unethical behavior.
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