BuzzFeed News has won a victory in a court challenge over the publication of the Russia dossier related to President Trump. A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the news organization was protected from accusations of defamation, since high-ranking government officials spoke to Mr. Trump and President Barack Obama about it before it was made public.
A Russian technology executive had sued Buzzfeed over the publication of a dossier containing unverified reports of links between Mr. Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government. But Judge Ursula Ungaro of the U.S. District Court in Miami said BuzzFeed was protected by the fair report privilege, which protects reporting on official government proceedings.
In a statement posted to Twitter, BussFeed editor Ben Smith said that the ruling affirms that "a key principle underlying the First Amendment is that the public has a right to know about actions taken by its government."
"A document that had been circulating at the highest levels of government, under active investigation by the F.B.I., and briefed to two successive presidents, is clearly the subject of 'official action,'" he said. "Moreover, its publication has contributed to the American people's understanding of what is happening in their country and their government."
The suit was filed by Aleksej Gubarev, the head of Luxombourg-based XBT, and Webzilla, a technology company based in Florida. Gubarev and his companies were named at the the end of the dossier. The dossier was compiled by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele during the 2016 campaign at the behest of Mr. Trump's political opponents.
BuzzFeed posted the 35-page document on Jan. 10, 2017. Days before, U.S. intelligence directors had briefed Obama and Mr. Trump on the dossier. Those briefings were considered, under the law, "official proceedings," giving BuzzFeed legal protection to publish it in connection to an article with the headline "These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties to Russia."
The BuzzFeed article included a disclaimer that it contained "specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations."