NEW YORK – Former US President Donald Trump on Tuesday sued his estranged niece and The New York Times over a 2018 story about his family’s estate and tax practices, partly over confidential documents provided to the newspaper’s reporters. was based.
Trump’s lawsuit, filed in state court in New York, accuses Mary Trump of violating a settlement agreement by disclosing tax records obtained in a dispute over the estate of family patriarch Fred Trump.
The lawsuit accuses the Times and its three investigative journalists, Susan Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner, of finding Mary Trump as a source of information and of convincing her to turn over the documents. The suit claims that the journalists knew the settlement agreement had barred them from disclosing the documents.
The Times story challenged Trump’s claims of self-made wealth by how his father, Fred, gave him at least US$413 million over decades, including tax avoidance plans.
Mary Trump identified herself as the source of documents provided to the Times in a book published last year.
Trump’s lawsuit alleges that Mary Trump, the Times and its journalists were “motivated by personal vendetta” against him and a desire to advance a political agenda.
The lawsuit states that the defendants “engaged in an insidious conspiracy to obtain confidential and highly sensitive records, which they exploited to their advantage and used as a means to falsely legitimize their publicized works.” “
In a statement to NBC News, Mary Trump said of her uncle, “I think he’s a loser, and he’s going to throw anything he can against the wall. It’s desperation. The walls are closing in and he’s throwing anything he thinks will stick. As is always the case with Donald, he’ll try and change the subject.”
Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhodes Ha said the lawsuit is “an attempt to silence independent news organizations and we plan to vigorously defend against it.”
The Times’ coverage of Trump’s taxes, she said, “helped to inform citizens through careful reporting on the subject of overriding the public interest.”
Craig, one of the Times’ reporters, responded in a tweet: “I knocked on Mary Trump. She opened it. I guess they call it journalism.”
Trump is seeking $100 million in damages.
Trump followed suit nearly a year after Mary Trump sued over allegations that she and her two siblings defrauded her of millions of dollars over several decades while driving her out of the family business.
That matter is pending.
Mary Trump, 56, is the daughter of Donald Trump’s brother, Fred Trump Jr., who died in 1981 at the age of 42. Mary Trump was 16 at the time.
Trump’s lawsuit focuses only on a 2018 story from the Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner for interpretive reporting. It makes no mention of another Times scoop on Trump’s taxes last year, which found he paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years.
According to the lawsuit, Mary Trump came into possession of more than 40,000 pages of “highly sensitive, proprietary, private and confidential documents” through a legal case involving Fred Trump’s will.
Trump’s lawsuit states that documents including financial records, accounting, tax returns, bank statements and legal papers relating to Donald Trump, Fred Trump and their businesses.
In 2001, nearly two years after Fred Trump’s death, Mary Trump and other family members entered into a settlement agreement with confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses that allowed them, among other places, newspaper stories, Trump’s lawsuit. Barred from sharing information about Trump’s assets. said. The settlement also included the estate of Fred’s wife, Mary Anne Trump, who died in 2000.
Trump, who has repeatedly bashed the Times during his presidency as a “failed New York Times”, noted in the lawsuit that the 2018 article was viewed more online than any previous Times article and The New York Times Co. Its share price had jumped 7.4% in the week. He ran.
The Times story states that Donald Trump and his father evaded gift and inheritance taxes in ways including setting up a sham corporation and undervaluing property to tax officials. The Times says its report was based on more than 100,000 pages of financial documents, including confidential tax returns from the father and his companies.
Mary Trump’s book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” debuted last year in the middle of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The court unsuccessfully tried to block publication of the book, citing a 2001 settlement by Donald Trump’s brother, Robert.
Ruling in favor of Mary Trump, a judge said that the privacy clause, “seen in the context of the current Trump family circumstances in 2020, would degrade public policy as a prior restraint on protected speech.”
In the book, Mary Trump set about providing the family’s financial records, which underpin the Times’ reporting. The book sold over 1.3 million copies in its first week and reached #1 on the Times bestseller list.
In an interview associated with the book’s release, Mary Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that she didn’t think the non-disclosure agreement “must one way or the other because what I have to say is so important.”