Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, has withdrawn lawsuits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the publishing of a controversial dossier compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele.
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Cohen filed the lawsuits earlier this year — one in federal court against the private investigative firm and the other in state court against the popular media website.
Late Wednesday night, Cohen’s attorney filed to dismiss both.
"The decision to voluntarily discontinue these cases was a difficult one," Cohen's attorney, David Schwartz, said in a statement to ABC News on Thursday.
Schwartz said Cohen still believes BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS defamed him “but given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits.”
Both Fusion GPS and Buzzfeed welcomed the decision.
“We welcome, though are not surprised, that Michael Cohen opted to withdraw this meritless complaint rather than face a discovery process that would have forced him to defend his reputation and address the allegations of the Steele dossier under penalty of perjury,” a spokesperson for Fusion GPS told ABC News, adding, “With his decision, it appears that Mr. Cohen can now focus on his many other legal travails.”
BuzzFeed said the lawsuit had never been about the "merits" of publishing the dossier.
“The lawsuits against BuzzFeed over the Steele dossier have never been about the merits of our decision to publish it,” a BuzzFeed’s spokesperson wrote in a statement Thursday morning on Twitter. “Today’s news suggests that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer no longer thinks an attack on the free press is worth his time.”
Cohen claimed in both lawsuits that the so-called Steele dossier’s unconfirmed allegations of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents contained “false and defamatory” assertions that resulted in “harm to his personal and professional reputation, current business interests, and the impairment of business opportunities.”
Steele gave his dossier to Fusion GPS and it was later published in its entirety by BuzzFeed.
In his statement Thursday morning, the Buzzfeed spokesperson repeated the company’s claim that the dossier’s “interest to the public is, and always has been, obvious.”
According to Cohen’s initial complaint, Fusion GPS, co-founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, “recklessly placed [the dossier] beyond their control and allowed it to fall into the hands of media devoted to breaking news on the hottest subject of the day: the Trump candidacy.”
One specific claim in the dossier that Cohen has vehemently denied is an anecdote about Cohen having traveled to Prague in 2016 to meet a Russian oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last week, McClatchy reported that the special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence indicating that Cohen did, in fact, travel to Prague.
ABC News has not independently verified McClatchy’s reporting. Cohen reacted to McClatchy’s report on Twitter, calling it a “bad story” and again insisting that he’s never been to Prague.
The sudden withdrawal of these suits comes amid ramped up legal pressure surrounding Cohen.
Last week, Cohen’s home and office were raided by federal investigators seeking to obtain documents connected with certain work on behalf of Trump and in Cohen's own business dealings.
Cohen is also under the scope of a lawsuit in California involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, filed a lawsuit against Trump in March arguing that a “hush” agreement she signed is invalid because Trump never signed it. Cohen arranged the $130,000 payment to Daniels from his own funds in order to keep her from going public with the story of an alleged one-night stand with Donald Trump. Records of that arrangement were scooped up in last week's raids, according to people briefed on the case.
Strategically, Cohen’s decision to drop these suits may reflect a growing concern that a civil lawsuit could expose him to discovery – a process that would require him to share files and correspondence that he may not want BuzzFeed or anyone else to see. With it now clear that the FBI is looming, that may be even less appealing to Cohen and his lawyers.
Dropping the suits may also alleviate the mounting financial cost of Cohen’s aforementioned legal exploits.
ABC News’ Pete Madden and Ali Dukakis contributed to this report.