Judge Dismisses Donald Trump’s Lawsuit Against New York Times, Orders Former President To Pay Attorney’s Fees And Costs

A judge has dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against The New York Times and three journalists who published a 2018 piece on his tax schemes.

The New York Supreme Court judge, Robert R. Reed, also ordered the former president to pay the Times’ legal expenses, finding that the state’s anti-SLAPP law applied. That law is designed to limit plaintiffs from filing litigation as a way to limit a defendant from exercising the right to free speech and public participation.

Trump filed suit against the Times and the reporters, Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner, in 2021, claiming they caused his niece Mary Trump to take tax and financial documents held by her lawyer and violate a 2001 settlement agreement. Among other things, Trump claimed tortious interference with contract and unjust enrichment.

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In Reed’s opinion — read it here — he rejected Trump’s claims against the media defendants, writing that “courts have long recognized that reporters are entitled to engage in legal and ordinary newsgathering activities without fear of tort liability — as these actions are at the very core of protected First Amendment activity.”

A spokesperson for the Times said, “The New York Times is pleased with the judge’s decision today. It is an important precedent reaffirming that the press is protected when it engages in routine newsgathering to obtain information of vital importance to the public.” An attorney for Donald Trump did not immediately return a request for comment.

The 2018 article — Trump Engaged In Tax Schemes As He Reaped Riches From His Father — created a sensation at the time, as there had been wide speculation over the then-president’s tax returns. Trump declined to release them during the 2016 presidential campaign and afterward.

Mary Trump provided the documents to the Times’ reporters, but Reed noted that she did so with her attorney’s permission. The judge also wrote that Mary Trump “owned the files she disclosed to the Times, and thus there was nothing wrongful” about Craig, the Times reporter, requesting them from her.

Donald Trump “does not cite a single case where any court, whether state or federal, has held that a reporter is liable for inducing his or her source to breach a confidentiality provision.”

Trump also named Mary Trump in the lawsuit, but Reed has not yet ruled on her motion to dismiss.

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