Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against his niece Mary L. Trump, The New York Times, and a trio of Times reporters on Tuesday evening, accusing them of “maliciously conspiring against him” in an “insidious plot” to obtain and publish his confidential tax records for monetary and political gain.
“The defendants engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records which they exploited for their own benefit and utilized as a means of falsely legitimizing their publicized works,” the 27-page complaint states. “The defendants’ actions were motivated by a personal vendetta and their desire to gain fame, notoriety, acclaim and a financial windfall and were further intended to advance their political agenda.”
The complaint, filed in New York State’s Dutchess County Supreme Court, claims that The Times journalists—Susanne Craig, David Barstow, and Russell Buettner—showed “brazenness” in “relentlessly” angling to convince Mary Trump to “smuggle” the former president’s financial records out of her attorney’s office. The journalists’ reporting on the then-president’s finances earned them a Pulitzer Prize in 2019, with the award judges describing their work as having “revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges.”
According to Trump’s attorney Alina Habba, Mary Trump’s conduct breached a 2001 confidentiality agreement she entered into over the will Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, following his death in 1999. The Times journalists are accused of tortious interference by inducing Mary Trump to turn over the tax information.
“Donald J. Trump’s public service to this great country aside, it is of paramount importance to note that he is a private citizen who is entitled to the same contractual rights, privileges and protections as any other person,” Habba wrote. “Yet, the defendants, through their tortious conduct, sought to deprive him of these basic, inherent rights. As a result, the fruits of the defendants’ illicit actions were unjustly and inequitably obtained and Donald J. Trump has suffered significant damages as a direct result of the defendants’ tortious conduct.”
Trump is seeking damages “ in an amount to be determined at trial, but believed to be no less than One Hundred Million Dollars.” Habba did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment.
Donald’s brother, Robert S. Trump, had previously filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the publication of Mary Trump’s memoir based on the confidentiality agreement. In response, Mary Trump claimed the confidentiality clause of the contract was void because she was “fraudulently induced” into signing the agreement by the Trump family as part of a “tax avoidance scheme” that unlawfully devalued Fred Trump’s assets. A state judge ultimately sided with Mary Trump, reasoning that the terms of the purported confidentiality clause were too vague and “overly broad” to be enforceable.
The Times defended its reporting in a statement Tuesday evening and vowed to fight the lawsuit.
“The Times’s coverage of Donald Trump’s taxes helped inform the public through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest,” the statement read. “This lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news organizations and we plan to vigorously defend against it.”
Mary Trump had a more tempestuous response to her uncle’s latest lawsuit, calling the former president “a fucking loser.”
“I think he is a fucking loser, and he is going to throw anything against the wall he can,” Mary told The Daily Beast. “It’s desperation. The walls are closing in and he is throwing anything against the wall that will stick. As is always the case with Donald, he’ll try and change the subject.”
“This is the latest in a long line of frivolous lawsuits by Donald Trump that target truthful speech and important journalism on issues of public concern,” Boutrous told Law&Crime. “It is doomed to failure like the rest of his baseless efforts to chill freedom of speech and of the press.”
Read the full lawsuit below.
[image via Pete Marovich for The New York Times]
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