A federal judge ruled Thursday that BuzzFeed can keep secret the identity of the source of the Trump dossier, which it published this year.
John James O’Sullivan, a federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, said BuzzFeed is protected under the Florida Shield Law's reporter’s privilege.
“[T]here is nothing in the statute that limits the privilege to traditional print media,” O’Sullivan wrote in a 10-page decision.
BuzzFeed and editor Ben Smith were sued in February for defamation and defamation per se by Russian tech entrepreneur Aleksej Gurbarev, who called the decision to publish the so-called Trump dossier "one of the most reckless and irresponsible moments in modern journalism."
Gurbarev and his company, XB Holding, were named in BuzzFeed’s Jan. 10, 2017 story. The dossier, put together by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, had unverified information alleging President Trump’s ties to Russia.
In O’Sullivan’s ruling Thursday, he noted that Gurbarev has said he and his legal team have taken other steps to identify the dossier’s source, including obtaining a letter for a foreign court to depose Steele, and serving a subpoena to Fusion GPS — the firm that paid for the dossier — for deposition.
“[T]he plaintiffs have not met their burden of making it clear and specific showing that the identity of the source cannot be obtained through alternative sources,” O’Sullivan wrote.