Former President Donald Trump has been ordered to pay The New York Times nearly $400,000 in legal fees stemming from a lawsuit he brought against the publication, three of its reporters and his niece over a Pulitzer Prize-winning story about his family’s wealth and tax practices.
Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit against the liberal paper and his niece, Mary Trump, in 2021 accusing them of “tortiously breaching and/or interfering with his contractual rights and otherwise maliciously conspiring against him” to obtain and publish his tax records in 2018.
In May, Justice Robert R. Reed threw out the lawsuit against the newspaper and reporters Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner saying in his ruling that Trump’s claims against The Times “fail as a matter of constitutional law.” Trump’s claim against his estranged niece — that she breached a prior settlement agreement by giving tax records to the reporters — is still pending.
Reed said that given the “complexity of the issues” in the case and other factors, it was reasonable that Donald Trump be forced to pay lawyers for the Times and the reporters a total of $392,638 in legal fees.
“Today’s decision shows that the state’s newly amended anti-SLAPP statute can be a powerful force for protecting press freedom,” Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoads Ha said, according to The Associated Press. Ha was referring to a New York law that bars SLAPP, or strategic lawsuits against public participation, lawsuits which are used to intimidate and/or silence criticism through expensive, baseless legal proceedings.
“The court has sent a message to those who want to misuse the judicial system to try to silence journalists,” Ha said.
Donald Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said they remain disappointed that the Times and its reporters were dropped from the case. She said they are pleased that the court has affirmed “the strength of our claims against Mary and is denying her attempt to avoid accountability.”
“We look forward to proceeding with our claims against her,” Habba said, according to The Associated Press.
The former president alleged the trio of journalists was “in the middle of an extensive crusade to obtain” his “confidential tax records” and that Mary Trump was convinced to “smuggle the records out of her attorney’s office and turn them over” to the paper.
The suit claims Mary Trump had access to “more than 40,000 pages of highly sensitive, proprietary, private and confidential documents, including, but not limited to, financial documents, accountings, tax records, income tax returns, bank statements, legal documents and other related documents” pertaining to the former president as a result of discovery during litigation related to the will of Mary Anne Trump, the mother of Donald Trump and grandmother of Mary Trump.
The suit claims the documents were deemed confidential as a part of a settlement agreement.
The suit alleges that Craig “persistently and relentlessly sought out Mary Trump in her pursuit of certain documents which she believed to be in Mary Trump’s possession” and eventually provided the president’s niece with a “burner” phone to help her smuggle the confidential documents from a law office.
Mary Trump has been an outspoken critic of her uncle and regularly appears on liberal cable news networks to bash him. She penned the 2020 book “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” along with the 2021 follow-up, “The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal.”
The Times published an article on Oct. 2, 2018, titled, “Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches from His Father,” which acknowledged it was “based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records.” The language confirms the Times “had actual knowledge that the Confidential Records were, in fact, confidential,” according to the suit.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Brian Flood as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report.