By Robert Lutz
In a recent ruling, New York Judge Robert Reed ordered former President Donald Trump to pay The New York Times and its three investigative reporters – Susanne Craig, David Barstow, and Russell Buettner – legal fees totaling $392,638. This payment stems from Trump’s unsuccessful lawsuit against them concerning a 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning article about his family’s financial dealings and tax strategies.
The lawsuit, which was dismissed in May, initially included allegations against Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, for supposedly breaching a settlement agreement by providing tax documents to the Times. While the case against the newspaper and its reporters has been resolved, the claim against Mary Trump is still active.
Reed’s decision reflects the complexities of the case and supports the Times’ legal expenses. Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoads Ha hailed the ruling as a testament to the effectiveness of New York’s anti-SLAPP statute in safeguarding press freedom. This statute aims to prevent frivolous lawsuits that could hinder free speech.
On the same day, Reed rejected Mary Trump’s request to pause the ongoing lawsuit during her appeal against the June decision allowing Donald Trump’s claim to proceed. Mary Trump’s legal team chose not to comment on this development.
Alina Habba, representing Donald Trump, expressed disappointment over the dismissal of the Times and its reporters from the lawsuit. However, she welcomed the court’s continued recognition of the claims against Mary Trump, emphasizing their intent to hold her accountable.
The 2021 lawsuit by Donald Trump accused the Times and its journalists of conspiring with Mary Trump to obtain confidential tax records, breaching her prior settlement. The Times’ reporting, based on over 100,000 pages of documents, including the Trump family’s confidential tax returns, disputed Donald Trump’s narrative of self-made wealth. It highlighted the substantial financial support he received from his father, Fred Trump, using various tax avoidance strategies.
Donald Trump, who had sought $100 million in damages, alleged that the defendants were driven by personal animosity and exploited sensitive records for their benefit. In dismissing the newspaper and its reporters, Reed underscored that legal news gathering is crucially protected under the First Amendment.
Mary Trump, 58, the daughter of Donald Trump’s late brother, Fred Trump Jr., is known for her critical stance against her uncle, whom she has labeled as “criminal, cruel and traitorous.” In July, she filed a counterclaim under New York’s anti-SLAPP law, arguing that her uncle’s lawsuit was retaliatory and intended to suppress criticism.