Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona will face questions as part of a defamation lawsuit regarding his role in the leaking of the opposition research dossier former British spy Chris Steele compiled on President Donald Trump.
The dossier, Steele and his London firm Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd. produced, made numerous unsubstantiated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The dossier also included salacious details related to Trump’s alleged sexual perversion, which the dossier indicates left him vulnerable to Russian blackmailing.
Two defamation lawsuits, one in the U.K. and one in the U.S., are being brought against Steele and Orbis by attorneys for Cyprus based venture capitalist and tech expert Aleksej Gubarev, who was accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by Steele’s Russian sources.
The dossier includes unsubstantiated claims alleging Gubarev’s U.S.-based global web hosting firms XBT and Webzilla planted digital bugs, transmitted viruses and attempted to alter DNC data.
According to a court document related to the British suit obtained by McClatchy, McCain discussed the dossier with former British Ambassador to Moscow Sir Andrew Wood and they, along with Steele and former Department of State official David Kramer, decided the information should be shared with British and American authorities.
“The Defendants considered that the issues were self-evidently relevant to the national security of the US, UK and their allies,” the document says, explaining why Steele and his partner, Christopher Burrows, felt they should share the document with intelligence officials.
McCain issued a statement on Jan. 11, one day after Buzzfeed News published the explosive dossier, indicating that he had received the document prior to it being made public and “Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, [he] delivered the information to the director of the FBI.”
The defendants’ counsel repeatedly reference McCain and Kramer in the court documents, likely as part of their strategy to navigate the defamation allegation by demonstrating the defendants were not acting maliciously but rather out of genuine concern for U.K. and U.S. national security. This contention is made more plausible by the fact that McCain and Kramer, who clearly had no financial motivation, came to the conclusion that the dossier should be shared with authorities.
In the court document, Steele’s barrister Nicola Cain, claims the portion of the dossier related to Gubarev, which was compiled weeks after the election and after Steele’s clients had stopped paying for the information, amounted to raw intelligence.
Val Gurvits, an attorney leading a similar U.S. defamation suit against Buzzfeed, dismissed Cain’s argument.
“The value of this document (dossier) is only if it is published,” Gurvits told McClatchy. “It is absolutely of no value to anybody unless it is published. Slander is slander when you say it to one person.”