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Russian bank owners sue BuzzFeed over Trump dossier publication

A screen grab of the BuzzFeed website is pictured.

In a statement, BuzzFeed defended the publication of the dossier.

The owners of a Russian bank are suing BuzzFeed for publishing a dossier containing unproven claims that the businessmen were involved in bribing Russian President Vladimir Putin years ago and took part in an alleged Russian government scheme to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan of Alfa Bank filed the defamation lawsuit Friday in state court in Manhattan, seeking unspecified damages from BuzzFeed as well as editor-in-chief Ben Smith, reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs.

The suit seized on Smith admitting that at the time BuzzFeed published the dossier in January he knew aspects of the dossier were wrong and that other aspects of it were unproven. That admission indicates BuzzFeed had knowledge sufficient to meet the legal standard for libel, the court complaint says.

"The Article clearly states that the allegations contained in the Dossier were unverified and that the Dossier itself contined errors, including the repeated misspelling of Alfa's name, and could not be verified despite substantial efforts," wrote Alan Lewis and John Walsh of Carter Ledyard and Milburn, the law firm for the bank owners. "The false and defamatory statements published by Defendants of and concerning the Plaintiffs and Alfa, and the implications of those defamatory statements, were made with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were true or false."

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In a statement, BuzzFeed defended the publication of the dossier and warned of a possible chilling effect on reporters trying to explore potential connections between President Donald Trump, his election and the Russian government.

"The head of a Russian bank sued our news organization for publishing a document that alleges financial ties between Putin, Trump, and Russian entities—including this very bank," BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said. "Given that the allegations contained in the dossier were presented to successive presidents and remain under active investigation by intelligence agencies and Congress, there is little doubt that their publication was and continues to be in the public interest. That makes it all the more important that this shameless attempt to bully and intimidate BuzzFeed News not have a chilling effect on other journalists who continue to report this important story.”

In February, BuzzFeed was sued by a Russian internet entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev over claims in the dossier that he and his firms used "botnets and porn traffic" to conduct a variety of cyber operations against Democratic Party leaders. At about the time the suit was filed, BuzzFeed apologized and redacted the information about Gubarev and his companies from the document on BuzzFeed's site.

However, that suit has continued. BuzzFeed recently lost a bid to move the case from a federal court in Miami to one in New York.

Josh Gerstein is a


Suit against Hillary Clinton over Benghazi deaths and emails is dismissed

Hillary Clinton is pictured.

The judge noted they were not making a determination about whether Clinton's use of the private server was legal or not. | Getty

A federal judge in Washington has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Hillary Clinton's lax security surrounding her emails led to the deaths of two of the Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson tossed out the wrongful death claims as well as allegations that Clinton essentially slandered the parents of the deceased by contracting accounts the parents gave of their children's deaths.

The suit was filed last August by Patricia Smith, the mother of State Department information officer Sean Smith, and Charles Woods, the father of CIA operative Tyrone Woods. The case was brought weeks after Patricia Smith took to the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and delivered an emotional speech blasting the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and for failing to save the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attack while she was secretary of state: Smith, Woods, CIA operative Glen Doherty and U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Jackson dismissed the wrongful death portion of the suit on technical grounds after granting the State Department's motion to step in as the defendant on those claims. The Obama-appointed judge concluded Clinton used her email in the course of her official duties.

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"The Court finds that Secretary Clinton was acting in the scope of her employment when she transmitted the emails that are alleged to give rise to her liability," Jackson wrote in her 29-page opinion . "The untimely death of plaintiffs’ sons is tragic, and the Court does not mean to minimize the unspeakable loss that plaintiffs have suffered in any way. But when one applies the appropriate legal standards, it is clear that plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to rebut the presumption that Secretary Clinton was acting in her official capacity when she used her private email server."

Jackson cautioned that she was not opining on the appropriateness of Clinton's use of the private server or on whether what she said publicly about the Benghazi episode in its immediate aftermath.

"Nothing about this decision should be construed as making any determination or expressing any opinion about the propriety of the use of the private email server or the content or accuracy of the statements made by the Secretary to the family members or to anyone else in the days following the Benghazi attack," the judge wrote.

Jackson added that she was also not making a determination about whether Clinton's use of the private server was legal or not.

For the purposes of the suit, "it...does not matter whether Secretary Clinton used a private email server lawfully or unlawfully. Instead, the relevant inquiry is whether


Lawyer: Kushner ‘has no recollection’ of reported undisclosed Russian contacts

Lawyer: Kushner ‘has no recollection’ of reported undisclosed Russian contacts

"Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period," his legal team said in a statement. | Getty

Top presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s legal team pushed back Friday night against a report that the White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law had at least three undisclosed contacts with a Russian ambassador during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, saying he had “no recollection” of the alleged exchanges.

"Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described,” Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick told POLITICO in a statement, responding to a Reuters report about Kushner's contacts with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

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“We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information," Gorelick added.

But Kushner's legal team was silent about other reports that President Donald Trump's son-in-law sought to establish a secret line of communications with the Kremlin. The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the reports.

According to Reuters, Kushner held at least two phone calls between April and November of last year with Kislyak, who’s represented Russian President Vladimir Putin in Washington since 2008.

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In a separate report, the Washington Post reported Kushner sought to establish secret communications with the Kremlin during a transition meeting with Kislyak. Per the Post, Kislyak said he talked to Kushner about installing secure lines between the Trump transition and Russian officials at foreign facilities to avoid conversations being monitored.

The New York Times reported that the purpose of the channel was to allow then-national security adviser Michael Flynn to communicate directly with Moscow about Syria and other security issues. The lines were never set up, the Times reported. Flynn, who is under investigation, was dismissed in February amid reports that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his contacts with Kislyak.

An array of former intelligence and national security officials reacted with astonishment to the report, stressing the seriousness of Kushner’s reported actions.

"Hard to fully convey the gravity of this,” said Susan Hennessey, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former lawyer for the National Security Agency, of the Washington Post report. “Unthinkable Kushner could stay in the White House,” she added.

"GOOD GRIEF. This is serious," Bob Deitz, an NSA and Central Intelligence Agency veteran who worked in both Clinton and Bush administrations, told Business Insider of the attempt to establish secretive Russian communications. "This is a big problem for the President."

The Democratic National Committee called on President Donald Trump to "immediately fire" Kushner.

"Trump has no choice but to immediately fire Kushner, whose failure to report this episode on his


Trump nominee called Kennedy 'judicial prostitute'

Trump nominee called Kennedy 'judicial prostitute'

The comments about Justice Anthony Kennedy from one of Donald Trump’s nominees is particularly notable. | Getty

One of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees wrote nearly a decade ago that Justice Anthony Kennedy was akin to a “judicial prostitute” — a comment that one liberal advocacy group says should disqualify him for the courts.

Damien Schiff, who has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, is a lawyer with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation who was also a prolific blogger. One piece on his personal blog, Omnia Omnibus, discussed the justice’s role as a powerful swing vote on the Supreme Court.

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“What does this mean? Presumably we are to understand that Justice Kennedy is savvy and strategic, because he makes other Justices curry his favor,” Schiff wrote in the June 29, 2007 blog post. “But again, what does that mean? It would seem that Justice Kennedy is (and please excuse the language) a judicial prostitute, ‘selling’ his vote as it were to four other Justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence, and the blandishments of the fawning media and legal academy.”

Schiff had been commentating on a piece from the website SCOTUSBlog discussing Kennedy’s influence on the nation’s most powerful court, including how infrequently he was in the minority during the term that ended in June 2007.

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The lawyer disclosed his writings in a standard nominee questionnaire he returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. His confirmation hearing before the committee has not yet been scheduled.

White House officials, as well as Schiff, did not immediately return a request for comment on Schiff’s writings. The comments about Kennedy from one of Trump’s nominees is particularly notable, considering the White House has been keeping close tabs on the justice should he be pondering retirement.

Meanwhile, one liberal group involved in judicial nominations argued that his commentary made him unfit for a seat on the claims court.

“There is no circumstance under which a person who displays such obvious contempt and lack of respect for a Supreme Court justice should be given a seat on a federal court,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, which flagged Schiff’s writings. “Mr. Schiff clearly lacks the judicial temperament necessary to be a judge, and we have serious concerns that he would use his position to further his dangerous ideology.”

Schiff was among a batch of 10 judicial nominees that the Trump White House rolled out earlier this month for various federal court seats. In addition to his work for the Pacific Legal Foundation, Schiff has also clerked for the federal claims court, which handles monetary claims against the federal government.

Another nominee in that batch of 10 has penned not-so-flattering blog posts in


Trumps feature Central Park in congressional picnic invite

Central Park is pictured. | Getty

The invite (not pictured) to the congressional picnic features a pleasant watercolor painting of what appears to be New York's Central Park. | Getty

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