Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, saw his lawsuit against Yahoo News’ parent company, Oath Inc., dismissed in Manhattan federal court Tuesday.
Page sued the media company over a September 2016 article that claimed U.S. Intelligence officials were probing possible ties between Page and Russian officials. According to the article, Page met with two individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin while in Moscow in July 2016.
Page has denied the meetings took place, and he described the allegations as amounting to a conspiracy against the Democratic Party leadership, American democracy and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
According to reports, the FBI was granted a secret U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order in October 2016 to monitor Page’s communications as part of an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A partisan political battle has broken out about the justification for the surveillance. Trump supporters say an intelligence report provided by a former British spy, and paid for in part by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, was inappropriately used to justify the FISA warrant. Democrats have pushed back, saying the intelligence report was only a part of the evidence used to convince the court to allow the FBI to monitor Page, and that another Trump aide’s conversations with an Australian diplomat were the true starting point for the collusion probe.
Page sued Yahoo News’ parent company, as well as the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors, which funds Radio Free Europe, for mentioning the Yahoo article shortly after being published. He alleged defamation based on the first Yahoo article and subsequent reports published by other Oath affiliates, notably the Huffington Post. Additionally, Page claimed the publications amounted to terrorism because of the threats he’d received, as well as damages to his business reputation.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield of the Southern District of New York granted both Oath’s and the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ motions to dismiss.
Schofield said Page’s single claim under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which include allegedly defamatory statements, failed as a matter of law. He was unable to show how the defamation caused by the publications violated federal or state criminal law, nor could he show how they were intended to intimidate or coerce people or governments.
Even if criminal action against a media outlet could be based on fraud, Schofield said Page’s complaint would still fail because it “does not allege that the allegedly life-threatening statements in the article are not true.”
“The article does not say that plaintiff actually met with the two Russians, but rather that U.S. officials had received reports of such meetings,” she wrote. “The substance and even headline of the article express uncertainty about the occurrence and substance of any such meetings.
In a footnote, Schofield also pointed out that Page had targeted Oath, rather than the two news organizations that actually published the articles, doing so in a “conclusory fashion”—itself a potentially fatal blow to the complaint.
“For a claim to survive, it would have to be asserted against the party that committed the alleged wrong,” she said.
Schofield went on to dismiss the remaining claims, brought under state law, declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. She also noted that she believed “any effort to replead a federal claim against Oath … would be futile,” but left the door open for Page, who claimed in court documents to be attending part time a “prominent” law school, to explain why that wasn’t the case.
Page represented himself pro se. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Davis Wright Tremaine partner James Rosenfeld led Oath’s legal team in the matter. He did not respond to a request for comment. An Oath spokesman said the company doesn’t comment on litigation.