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BuzzFeed hires former FBI official in an attempt to verify the Steele dossier

BuzzFeed has hired a former senior FBI official to lead an investigation attempting to verify the claims of the "Steele dossier" and acquit the news site of any wrongdoing. (2014 file photo/Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

BuzzFeed’s publication of the now-infamous “Steele dossier” led to rampant speculation about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia and landed BuzzFeed in court after being sued for libel.

Now, BuzzFeed has hired a former senior FBI official to lead an investigation attempting to verify the claims of the dossier and acquit the news site of any wrongdoing, Foreign Policy reports.

“If it’s fact, it’s not libel,” a source told Foreign Policy of the efforts.

Why did BuzzFeed hire him?

Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive whom Christopher Steele accused of owning the servers used to hack the Democratic Party computer systems in 2016, filed a libel lawsuit against BuzzFeed.

In an attempt to defend itself against libel charges, BuzzFeed hired former FBI and White House cybersecurity official Anthony Ferrante to verify the claims of the Steele dossier.

For months now, Ferrante and his investigative team have conducted interviews and sought documents all over the world, attempting to prove that the dossier is true and that BuzzFeed is not guilty of libel.

Who is Anthony Ferrante?

Ferrante joined the FBI in 2005, working in the New York field office on cyber threats to national security, according to Foreign Policy.

He was the director for cyber incident response at the U.S. National Security Council during the Barack Obama administration and was responsible for coordinating the U.S. response to Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election.

Ferrante served in the same role in the Trump administration until April 2017, when he left the FBI and joined FTI Consulting, a business advisory firm in Washington, D.C.

Why it matters

The BuzzFeed lawsuit could lead to a public disclosure of what has and hasn’t been verified as true from the Steele dossier, something that hasn’t happened with the confidential investigation by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller.

Gubarev’s attorney, Evan Fray-Witzer, said Ferrante won’t find anything.

“They can hire Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, or Sherlock Holmes — you can’t find what doesn’t exist,” Fray-Witzer said.

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