Trials & Litigation

Trump sues niece for disclosing his tax records and the New York Times for encouraging it

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Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump. Photo from Shutterstock.

Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the New York Times and Mary Trump, his niece, that seeks at least $100 million in damages for her disclosure of his tax records to the newspaper.

The lawsuit says reporters from the New York Times encouraged Mary Trump to “smuggle” the records from her lawyer’s office, causing her to breach a confidentiality agreement in litigation over the will of Fred Trump Sr., who is Donald Trump’s father and Mary Trump’s grandfather.

After obtaining the documents, the New York Times published a story that got more page views than any previous article in the newspaper’s history, the suit says. The stock price of the New York Times increased 7.4% during the week of the publication of the 2018 article.

Mary Trump also profited, the suit says, when she published a book called Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. The book included information about her disclosure of the confidential tax records to the New York Times.

Law360, the New York Times and the Washington Post are among publications with coverage of the lawsuit.

The 2018 article by the New York Times reported that Donald Trump participated in “dubious tax schemes” including “instances of outright fraud” during the 1990s.

According to the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning report, Trump “helped his parents dodge taxes” by setting up a sham corporation with his siblings to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents. Trump also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ property holdings to reduce the tax bill when the properties were transferred to him and his siblings, the newspaper alleged.

After the article was published, Donald Trump denied any fraud or tax evasion through a statement by his lawyer.

Mary Trump has filed her own lawsuit against Donald Trump and two of his siblings alleging that they deceived her about the true value of her inheritance in estate settlement negotiations, which affected the amount that she was paid, according to previous Washington Post coverage.

Donald Trump’s suit alleges that Mary Trump breached the nondisclosure agreement, breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and was unjustly enriched by book sales.

The suit also alleges that the New York Times and its reporters tortiously interfered with Mary Trump’s settlement agreement and were unjustly enriched through economic and reputational benefits. The suit also says the New York Times negligently supervised its reporters.

The suit seeks profits reaped by the New York Times and Mary Trump as a result of the disclosure, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Reporters from the New York Times named as defendants in the suit are Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner.

Donald Trump is represented by Habba Madaio & Associates in the Sept. 21 lawsuit, filed in New York state court in Dutchess County, New York.

Alina Habba, a lawyer for Donald Trump, told Law360 that there has been a reckless indifference to his rights as a public citizen that will no longer go unnoticed.

“For too long, news organizations and individuals have targeted President Trump with impunity,” Habba said. “This complaint marks the first of many cases which will seek to hold such individuals and entities accountable.”

The New York Times said in a statement the lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news organizations, and it plans a vigorous defense.

“The Times’ coverage of Donald Trump’s taxes helped inform the public through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest,” the statement said.

Donald Trump also commented in a statement.

“More to come, including on other people, and fake news media,” he said.

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