Donald Trump sues Mary Trump and New York Times over 2018 article

The documents in question were confidential due to a settlement agreement related to the estate of Fred Trump, Mr. Trump’s father, who died in 1999, according to the suit (Photo: Reuters)
The documents in question were confidential due to a settlement agreement related to the estate of Fred Trump, Mr. Trump’s father, who died in 1999, according to the suit (Photo: Reuters)

Summary

Lawsuit accuses former president’s niece and three reporters of plotting to get confidential tax information

Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against Mary Trump and the New York Times, accusing the newspaper and its reporters of plotting with his niece to expose confidential tax information.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New York state court in Dutchess County, accuses the reporters—David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner—of relentlessly seeking out Ms. Trump and convincing her to smuggle the documents out of her former attorney’s office. Ms. Craig showed up at Ms. Trump’s door and asked her to obtain confidential tax documents from the office, giving her a “burner" phone to communicate, according to the lawsuit.

“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 lawsuit said.

The documents in question were confidential due to a settlement agreement related to the estate of Fred Trump, Mr. Trump’s father, who died in 1999, according to the suit.

The suit alleges breach of contract by Ms. Trump, and that the three reporters wrongly interfered with the contract and benefited from the publication of an article.

In 2018, the Times published an article by the three reporters based on what it said were confidential tax documents. The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times called the lawsuit an attempt to silence an independent news organization. “The Times’s coverage of Donald Trump’s taxes helped inform citizens through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest," the spokeswoman said.

Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Ms. Trump, called the lawsuit a stunt. “Essentially, the theory of yesterday’s lawsuit is something like this: ‘Yeah, I may well have defrauded you out of tens of millions of dollars that you should have inherited from your father,’ " Ms. Kaplan said in a statement. “ ‘But you never should have figured that out because of a confidentiality agreement that I fraudulently induced you to sign.’ "

Ms. Trump said in her 2020 book, “Too Much and Never Enough," that she provided tax documents to the reporters.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said Ms. Trump and the New York Times “disregarded contractual and court ordered restrictions in a fervent desire to shamelessly profit through a series of intentionally deceptive and unlawful acts and statements."

The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $100 million.

The suit comes as Mr. Trump’s longtime company faces an indictment accusing it of tax fraud and other charges. The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have both pleaded not guilty. The judge overseeing those proceedings said this week that the case could go to trial in August or September of next year.

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