Miami Federal Judge Deals Big Blow to Donald Trump, and That's Good for America

Miami Federal Judge Deals Big Blow to Donald Trump, and That's Good for America
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
With Miami-based U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro's decision to throw out a lawsuit against BuzzFeed News Wednesday, President Donald Trump took a body blow. Ungaro rejected a suit filed by Aleksej Gubarev, the head of Webzilla, an Aventura-based tech company, that asserted BuzzFeed's publication of the so-called Trump dossier, which included allegations of the President's ties to Russia, had been reckless.

The name of Gubarev, who is from Cyprus, appeared in the document, though the website blacked it out. The document alleged he had hacked the Democratic Party. Ungaro decided it was a matter of privilege, which gives media a wide latitude in discussing government proceedings.

The most-discussed part of the memo, which BuzzFeed warned included “specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations,” wasn't about Gubarev at all. It was the alleged existence of a so-called "pee-tape," in which Trump was accused of hiring prostitutes to "defil[e] the bed where [the Obamas] had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a golden showers (urination) show in front of him" in the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow.

BuzzFeed was the first to publish the 35-page document, though many others followed. Trump called it "fake news." Ungaro is a University of Miami and University of Florida law school graduate who was appointed to the bench by recently deceased Republican President George H.W. Bush. Perhaps her best-known decision before this tossed a program in 2012 that would have allowed random drug testing of state employees. That program was proposed by former Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

BuzzFeed was represented by, among others, Roy Black, another UM grad who has been involved in many important South Florida cases including the acquittal on rape charges of William Kennedy Smith in Palm Beach in 1991.

Ungaro's decision was welcomed by BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith, who said the memo had "contributed to the American people's understanding of what has happened in their country."
Trump has been in hot water lately as a judge forced closure of his foundation in New York State, alleging a "shocking pattern of illegality." His former attorney, Michael Cohen, has alleged the President ordered payoffs to women who claim to have slept with him. And then there is the Robert Mueller probe, which, it was reported yesterday, is close to indicting South Florida Trump associate Roger Stone.

The BuzzFeed decision was important both for freedom of speech and those who believe the President has been a poor steward of American power. As the legal walls close in around him and Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, both his latitude to act and his support are weakening.

And this is good for the United States of America.
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse