Former President Donald J. Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing Mary L. Trump, the New York Times and three of her reporters of plotting an “insidious plot” to improperly obtain her confidential tax records and exploit their use in press articles and a book.
Lawsuit says Times reporters, as part of an effort to get the tax records, relentlessly searched for Mrs. Trump, the former president’s niece, and persuaded her to “get the records out of the office of his lawyer “and hand them over to Les temps.
This action, according to the lawsuit, violated a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement of a dispute involving the will of the father of the former president, Fred C. Trump, who died in 1999.
Mr. Trump’s lawsuit, filed in Dutchess County, New York State Supreme Court, accuses the newspaper, its reporters and Ms. Trump of being motivated “by a personal vendetta and their desire. to gain notoriety, notoriety and a financial windfall. further aimed to advance their political agenda.
The lawsuit comes as the former president continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and that his family company, the Trump Organization, and long-time CFO Allen H. Weisselberg were accused by Manhattan prosecutors of avoiding employee benefit taxes that should have been reported as income. They pleaded not guilty.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump vowed to make his tax returns public, as presidential candidates, including President Biden, have been doing for at least 40 years. But Mr. Trump then refused to release them, citing an ongoing audit. The secrecy surrounding his taxes sparked criticism and questions that haunted him throughout his presidency.
The documents Ms. Trump provided formed the basis of a 2018 article that examined what The Times called Mr. Trump’s story of tax evasion and outright fraud, according to the lawsuit.
The Times report cast doubt on Mr. Trump’s claim that he was a self-made billionaire who rose to wealth and fame with little help from his father, a real estate developer. Instead, the investigation found that Mr. Trump inherited the equivalent of at least $ 413 million, largely through “questionable tax schemes.”
The Times reported that Mr. Trump and his siblings set up a shell company to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, and that Mr. Trump helped his father gain abusive tax deductions worth millions more. .
In 2019, three Times reporters – David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner – received a Pulitzer Prize for explaining this and other article on Mr. Trump’s taxes. In announcing the award, Pulitzer judges called the work “an 18-month comprehensive investigation” which “exposed a business empire riddled with tax evasion.”
In a statement released Tuesday evening, The Times defended the news agency’s tax information on Mr. Trump and said it planned to fight the lawsuit.
“The Times’s tax coverage of Donald Trump has helped educate the public through meticulous reporting on a matter of major public interest,” the statement said. “This lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news agencies and we plan to vigorously defend against it.”
Mr Trump’s lawsuit claims Ms Trump described her “unauthorized disclosure of confidential documents to the Times” in a book she published last year, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man “. The lawsuit says it also made statements to the media after the book’s publication, “showing its blatant and blind disregard for its confidentiality obligations under the settlement agreement.”
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and claims the former president lost at least $ 100 million as a result of the defendants’ actions.
According to the lawsuit, the litigation arising from Fred Trump’s will and a lawsuit brought by several family members, including Mary Trump, were settled in 2001 on terms that included “confidentiality and nondisclosure obligations” between them. parts.
Ms Trump could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit.
Mr Trump ultimately lost a bitter and protracted legal battle that twice reached the United States Supreme Court, allowing Manhattan prosecutors to get tons of taxes and other documents from his accountants. financial.
Taxes are also at the center of an ongoing criminal case against Mr. Trump’s family business and Mr. Weisselberg, who is accused of avoiding taxes on approximately $ 1.7 million in employee benefits. A trial is expected to begin next summer. Prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which has spent years investigating the case, have not charged Mr. Trump with wrongdoing.