By Sam Tobin
LONDON (Reuters) – Donald Trump is suing a British private investigations firm in a London court to prove claims that he engaged in “perverted sexual acts” in Russia are false, the former U.S. president said in documents released on Monday.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is suing Orbis Business Intelligence for alleged data protection breaches over a dossier written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who co-founded Orbis.
The Steele dossier, published by the BuzzFeed website in 2017, alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia and said Trump engaged in sexual behaviour that gave Russian authorities material with which to blackmail him.
Many of the allegations were never substantiated and lawyers for Trump, 77, said in court filings on Monday that the report is “egregiously inaccurate”.
Trump said in a witness statement that the dossier contained “numerous false, phoney or made-up allegations” and that he sued Orbis to “prove, by evidence at trial, that the data are false”.
Trump said he had not at any time hired prostitutes to engage in “golden showers” – a sex act involving urination – in a Moscow hotel, taken part in “sex parties” in St. Petersburg or given Russian authorities “sufficient material to blackmail me”.
Orbis, however, argues that Trump is bringing the claim simply to address his “longstanding grievances” against the company and Steele.
Trump’s lawsuit against Orbis is one of many legal cases involving the former president, who faces four separate criminal prosecutions in the U.S.
Despite his legal entanglements, Trump leads a field of rivals seeking the Republican nomination.
‘SHOCKING AND SCANDALOUS’
Trump’s lawyer Hugh Tomlinson told the court the former president wanted to prove that the “shocking and scandalous claims” in the Steele dossier were false.
He “intends to discharge that burden by giving evidence in this court”, Tomlinson said, raising the prospect of Trump providing oral evidence if his case is allowed to proceed.
But Orbis’ lawyer Antony White said Trump’s lawsuit should be thrown out of court as any reputational damage and distress suffered by Trump was caused by BuzzFeed’s publication of the dossier, which White said was never intended to be made public.
Orbis also argues that Trump is not bringing the case for vindication, but instead is suing “for the purpose of harassing Orbis and Mr. Steele”.
White said Trump only sued Orbis in London after a similar case brought in Florida against Orbis, Steele and others – including his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton – was dismissed.
He also cited Trump’s counterclaim against the writer E. Jean Carroll and claims against New York state Attorney General Letitia James as demonstrating his “long history of repeatedly bringing frivolous, meritless and vexatious claims” to harass his perceived enemies.
Trump did not attend the hearing in London on Monday and was not required to do so. Steele attended and sat alongside Orbis’ lawyers during the hearing.
Tomlinson acknowledged Trump’s “many and varied” legal cases in the U.S. at the start of Monday’s hearing and said his client has “sometimes been subject to serious criticism by judges”.
But he added: “None of this is relevant to whether the personal data is accurate.”
Tomlinson said that, if Trump’s case was successful after trial, he would be entitled to at least 18,000 pounds ($21,893) in damages – the amount awarded to oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven following separate lawsuits against Orbis.
Judge Karen Steyn said at the end of the hearing that she would rule at a later date on whether Trump’s lawsuit could continue.
(This story has been refiled to fix a typographical error in paragraph 6)
(Reporting by Sam Tobin, editing by Ed Osmond, Christina Fincher and Rod Nickel)