BuzzFeed scrambling to verify Russia dossier amid lawsuit

BY KAT SHEPHERD / FEBRUARY 12, 2018 /

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BuzzFeed is the news organization that initially published the unverified and widely disputed Russian dossier, which began as opposition research on President Donald J. Trump. As legal battles over its veracity loom, the news site is scrambling to get parts of the document verified.

According to a new report in Foreign Policy: The investigation, being conducted by FTI Consulting, is running in parallel to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in Kremlin-directed efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. 

FTI is a Washington-based business advisory firm that specializes in areas ranging from corporate litigation to forensic accounting, and it is a frequent post-government landing pad for FBI officials.

The dossier, which was funded by those connected with the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, has been the subject of ongoing controversy; while some of its claims have allegedly been verified, many others remain unproven. Trump and his allies have repeatedly attacked those involved in the dossier, as well as top FBI officials, as being involved in a partisan witch hunt.

Ferrante, a former top FBI official who previously served as director for cyber incident response at the U.S. National Security Council during the Barack Obama administration, is now at FTI Consulting, where he is leading the effort. 

As a top FBI cybersecurity official tasked to the White House, Ferrante was in charge of coordinating the U.S. government response to Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, among other responsibilities.

At FTI, Ferrante launched what’s now been a months-long stealth effort chasing down documents and conducting interviews on the ground in various countries around the world. His team directed BuzzFeed lawyers to subpoena specific data and testimony from dozens of agencies or companies across the country and assembled a cyber ops war room to analyze that data, according to sources familiar with the work.

BuzzFeed is being sued for libel by Russian technology executive Aleksej Gubarev, who argues that the news organization was reckless in publishing a series of memos written by former British spy Christopher Steele. Those memos — part of a so-called dossier of information about Trump — include unverified claims that servers belonging to a company owned by Gubarev were used to hack the Democratic Party’s computer systems during the 2016 campaign.

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