WASHINGTON -- Three powerful Russian businessmen who control the country’s largest commercial bank have filed the second of two defamation lawsuits in connection with a salacious intelligence report involving President Donald Trump.
The lawsuit, filed October 3 by Pyotr Aven, Mikhail Fridman, and German Khan, alleged that the intelligence report, known commonly as the Steele dossier, harmed their professional reputations and “[impaired] business opportunities that resulted from the blatantly false and defamatory statements and implications about them.”
The suit, filed in U.S. federal court in Washington, D.C., targets the private Washington-based research and intelligence firm Fusion GPS, founded by a former Wall Street Journal reporter. The dossier was compiled by a former British intelligence agent initially for Trump’s Republican rivals, and funding for the report was later taken over by Democratic opponents.
After circulating among several news organizations who sought to corroborate its allegations, the dossier was published in full in January by BuzzFeed, which the three sued earlier this year, also for defamation.
A spokesperson for Fusion GPS did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.
BuzzFeed faces another separate but similar lawsuit from a Russian businessman.
Aven, Fridman, and Khan are the primary owners of Alfa Bank, a major Russia investment bank that was named in part of the dossier as being part of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
All three are considered to be so-called oligarchs, wealthy businessmen who once wielded substantial political power in Russia but have been largely reined in by President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.
Alfa Bank reportedly came under FBI investigation for what appeared to be mysterious computer transmissions between its computer servers and that of Trump’s private business organization. The FBI has never commented on the inquiry, but The New York Times later reported investigators had concluded there was nothing amiss.
Fusion GPS has also been under scrutiny for its work with Natalya Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who has sought to undermine a 2012 U.S. law that sanctioned several Russians deemed to have committed human rights abuses and other crimes.
Veselnitskaya met with Trump’s eldest son in June 2016, after an associate promised Trump Jr. with potentially damaging information about Trump’s presidential rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.