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Trump’s data protection case dismissed by English court

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The former US president’s High Court lawsuit against British corporate intelligence consultancy was dismissed by a judge today in London.

The defendant is Orbis Business Intelligence, founded by former government intelligence professionals Christopher Steele, who previously ran the Secret Intelligence Service’s (MI6) Russia desk, and Christopher Burrows.

Donald Trump’s claim concerned a dossier which was published by BuzzFeed on its website on 10 January 2017, under the headline‘These Reports Allege Trump has Deep Ties to Russia. Mrs Justice Steyn pointed out today that this is the third case to come before this court about this dossier.

The timeline of the case dates back to June 2016 when Orbis was engaged by Fusion GPS, a consultancy
based in Washington DC, acting on behalf of US law firm Perkins Coie, to collect and provide intelligence concerning any Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US Presidential election and any links that might exist between Russia and Trump.

Orbis produced 16 pre-election memorandas, while Steele also provided two of the memoranda to the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI).

They were also disclosed by Steele to Strobe Talbott, a former US deputy Secretary of State, a UK national security official, and David Kramer, an aide to then Senator John McCain.

BuzzFeed published the article on the dossier which included two of the memoranda. In one of the other lawsuits the judge noted, it was established Kramer gave BuzzFeed access to the dossier. An English judge held that that Orbis was not responsible for publication of the BuzzFeed Article.

It was noted in the judgement today that Trump accepted that Orbis is not responsible in law for the publication of the memoranda by BuzzFeed.

In December 2022, Trump’s City-based lawyers, Level Law, sent Orbis and Steele a letter of claim with the intention to pursue a claim against them over breaches of the UK GDPR and DPA 2018.

However, it was then agreed that Steele was to be removed as a defendant and Trump’s data protection claim was going to be just against the company.

Orbis has UK law firm Bristows on for its defence.

Last October, the English court heard arguments for two applications, one was for Trump to amend his claim form; while Orbis applied for an order striking out his claim form and particulars of claim on the grounds that they disclose no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim.

Today, the judge refused Trump’s application to amend his claim form and she ruled that Orbis is entitled to a summary judgement.

She ruled that the claim should be summarily dismissed.

The judge did note: “It is important to emphasise that the defendant has not contended that the claimant would have no real prospect of establishing at trial that the personal data complained of is inaccurate. The claimant’s evidence is that the allegations are ‘wholly untrue’”.

“I have not considered, or made any determination, as to the accuracy or inaccuracy of the memoranda,” she added.

Trump also brought proceedings against Orbis and Steele (and about 30 other defendants) in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida back in 2022 but the US court dismissed the case. Trump is currently appealing that decision.

Orbis was contacted for a comment and Level Law was contacted for Trump’s comment.

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