Trump ordered to pay $382,000 after losing UK lawsuit over Steele dossier

Former US president Donald Trump has been ordered to pay a six-figure legal bill to a company founded by a former British spy whom Trump unsuccessfully sued for making what his lawyer called “shocking and scandalous” false claims that harmed his reputation.

A London judge, who threw out the case against Orbis Business Intelligence last month saying it was “bound to fail”, ordered Trump to pay legal fees of £300,000 ($382,000), according to court documents released on Thursday.

Orbis was founded by Christopher Steele, who once ran the Russia desk for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6.

The British court case was one of few in which Trump, who is almost sure to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was not a defendant as he faces massive legal problems back home.

Trump is charged in four criminal cases and faces a civil complaint in US courts. He lost a subsequent defamation case in which a jury found him liable for sexual abuse, and has been ordered to pay $355m after a fraud verdict against his businesses.

In England, he had gone on the offensive and sued Orbis.

Steele was paid by Democrats for research that included salacious allegations Russians could potentially use to blackmail Trump. The so-called Steele dossier assembled in 2016 created a political storm just before Trump’s inauguration with rumors and uncorroborated allegations that have since been largely discredited.

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent, in London speaking to the media on 7 March 2017. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Trump sued the company, saying the the dossier had been phony and Orbis had violated British data-protection laws.

Attorney Hugh Tomlinson said at an October hearing that the former president “suffered personal and reputational damage and distress” over claims in the dossier that he’d taken part in “sex parties” in St Petersburg and consorted with sex workers in Moscow.

Tomlinson said the dossier “contained shocking and scandalous claims about the personal conduct of President Trump” and included allegations that he had paid bribes to Russian officials to further his business interests.

Orbis had said the lawsuit should be thrown out because the report had never been meant to be made public and was published by BuzzFeed without the permission of Steele or Orbis. It also said the claim had been filed too late.

Judge Karen Steyn, who sided with Orbis in her 1 February ruling, issued an order several days later on the legal costs.

She cut the amount of legal bills Orbis said it had incurred – £634,000 ($809,000) – by more than 50% because she said it was high considering there had only been a one-day hearing.

In 2022, a US federal judge in Florida dismissed a Trump lawsuit against Steele, 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and former top FBI officials, rejecting his claims that they helped concoct the Russia investigation that overshadowed much of his administration.