LONDON (AP) — A lawyer for Donald Trump told a London judge Monday the ex-president plans to prove that “shocking and scandalous claims” about him in a largely discredited report by a former British spy were false and harmed his reputation.
Trump has sued the company founded by Christopher Steele, who created a dossier in 2016 that contained rumors and uncorroborated allegations about Trump that erupted in a political storm just before he was inaugurated. Trump is seeking damages from Orbis Business Intelligence for allegedly violating British data protection laws.
Steele’s firm is seeking to have the case thrown out and a judge said she would rule at a later date after hearing arguments in London’s High Court.
The lawsuit comes as Trump is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination while facing legal problems on the other side of the Atlantic.
Trump’s lawyers are currently fighting a civil fraud trial in New York alleging he and company executives deceived banks, insurers and others by overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth to secure loans and make deals. He also faces four separate criminal cases for allegations including mishandling classified documents, trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and paying hush money to a porn actress to cover up an affair.
His lawyer noted in court Monday that Trump is a “controversial figure” who “expresses himself in strong language” and has faced criticism from judges in the U.S. However, he said none of that is relevant in the current case.
Trump “suffered personal and reputational damage and distress” because his data protection rights were violated, attorney Hugh Tomlinson said.
Steele, who once ran the Russia desk for the Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, was paid by Democrats to compile research that included salacious allegations that Russians could potentially blackmail Trump for sexual activity. Trump said the dossier was fake news and a political witch hunt.
Tomlinson said it “contained shocking and scandalous claims about the personal conduct of President Trump” and included allegations he paid bribes to Russian officials to further his business interests. Trump’s case “is that this personal data is egregiously inaccurate,” he said.
Tomlinson said Trump plans to vindicate himself in court by providing evidence that the report’s claims were false.
In a written witness statement, Trump said that despite Steele’s assertions the allegations have not been disproven, they were “wholly untrue.”
Trump said he had not engaged in “perverted sexual behavior including the hiring of prostitutes … in the presidential suite of a hotel in Moscow,” taken part in “sex parties” in St. Petersburg, bribed Russian officials, or provided them with “sufficient material to blackmail me.” He also said he had not bribed, coerced or silenced witnesses.
Orbis wants the lawsuit thrown out because it said the report was never meant to be made public and was published by BuzzFeed without the permission of Steele or Orbis. It also said the claim was filed too late.
Orbis attorney Antony White said Trump has a “deep and intense animus against” Steele and the firm and a “a long history of repeatedly bringing frivolous, meritless and vexatious claims for the purpose of vexing and harassing perceived enemies and others against whom he bears a grudge.”
Trump had called for Steele to be “extradited, tried, and thrown into jail” and has called him a “lowlife” and “sleazebag” involved in the “Russian collusion hoax” who produced “a total phony con job” dossier, White said in a court filing.
Trump said in his witness statement that he was not trying to harass or seek revenge or drive Orbis into financial ruin but wants to establish that the information in the dossier was false.
“Until there is such a judgment, I continue to suffer damage and distress as a result of people wrongfully believing that the data in the dossier is accurate,” he said.
In two previous High Court cases, a judge ruled Orbis and Steele were not legally liable for the consequences of the dossier’s publication.
A federal judge in Florida last year dismissed Trump’s lawsuit against Steele, 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and former top FBI officials, rejecting his claims that they helped concoct the Russia investigation that overshadowed much of his administration.