Former President Donald Trump is suing his estranged niece and three New York Times reporters, saying they plotted to acquire his confidential records for a “scathing” article on his financial history.
The suit filed on Tuesday in Dutchess County, New York, claims reporters Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner convinced Mary Trump to “smuggle records out of her attorney’s office and hand them over to The Times.”
In doing so, the lawsuit says, Ms. Trump violated confidentiality clauses in a 2001 settlement agreement in a dispute over the estate of Fred Trump Sr., who is Mr. Trump‘s father. The suit says they were all aware of the stipulation in the settlement agreement prohibiting disclosure of the records.
The reporters relied on the confidential documents to publish their 2018 article stating that Mr. Trump was able to receive more than $413 million from his father through “dubious tax schemes” and “instances of outright fraud,” according to the suit.
Mr. Trump‘s complaint argues they “were motivated by a personal vendetta” against the former president, who is seeking no less than $100 million in damages from his niece, the reporters and the Times.
Ms. Trump was able to access more than 40,000 pages of confidential records through the litigation with Mr. Trump‘s father, including financial documents, accountings, tax records, bank statements and legal papers, according to the suit.
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 NYT article became the most-viewed in the newspaper’s history, and its company stock price rose 7.4% the week it ran.
The reporters also won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2019 for the article, which the prize board described as work that “debunked [Mr. Trump‘s] claims of self-made wealth and revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges.”
Ms. Trump released her book “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” during Mr. Trump‘s re-election campaign last year. The book became a New York Times best seller.
Mr. Trump‘s brother sued to have a court block the book’s publication, citing the 2001 settlement agreement. But a judge said the confidentiality clauses “viewed in the context of the current Trump family circumstances in 2020, would … offend public policy as a prior restraint on protected speech.”
A NYT spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Tuesday night that “the Times’ coverage of Donald Trump‘s taxes helped inform citizens through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest. This lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news organizations and we plan to vigorously defend against it.”
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