Donald Trump Ordered to Pay approx. $400,000 as Legal Fees to The New York Times and Reporters


LI Network

Published on: January 14, 2024 at 13:34 IST

Former President Donald Trump has been directed to pay close to $400,000 in legal fees to The New York Times and three investigative journalists, marking the aftermath of his unsuccessful lawsuit against them concerning a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 exposé on his family’s wealth and tax practices.

On Friday, New York Judge Robert Reed ruled in favor of The New York Times and journalists Susanne Craig, David Barstow, and Russell Buettner, who were previously dismissed from the lawsuit in May. Although Trump’s claim against his estranged niece, Mary Trump, alleging a breach of a prior settlement agreement by providing tax records to the reporters, is still pending.

Judge Reed justified the decision for Donald Trump to cover the legal expenses, totaling $392,638, citing the “complexity of the issues” in the case and other relevant factors.

“Today’s decision highlights the potency of the state’s recently revised anti-SLAPP statute in safeguarding press freedom,” remarked Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoads Ha. The reference is to a New York law designed to prevent baseless lawsuits, commonly known as SLAPPs or strategic lawsuits against public participation, aimed at stifling criticism. Rhoads Ha added, “The Court has sent a message to those attempting to misuse the judicial system to silence journalists.”

In a separate ruling on Friday, Judge Reed denied Mary Trump’s request, now the sole defendant, to put the case on hold while she appeals his June decision allowing Donald Trump’s claim against her to proceed.

Mary Trump’s legal representatives declined to comment on the recent developments. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, expressed disappointment over the dismissal of The New York Times and its reporters from the case. However, she conveyed satisfaction that the court affirmed the strength of their claims against Mary Trump, denying her attempt to evade accountability.

Donald Trump’s lawsuit, filed in 2021, accused The New York Times and its reporters of aggressively seeking Mary Trump as a source and persuading her to divulge confidential tax records. He contended that the reporters were aware of her prior settlement agreement prohibiting disclosure of the documents received during a dispute over the estate of family patriarch Fred Trump.

The Times’ investigative reporting countered Donald Trump’s self-made wealth claims by revealing substantial financial support from his father, Fred Trump, exceeding $413 million over the years, including tax avoidance strategies. Mary Trump publicly identified herself as the source in a 2020 book.

The Times’ report asserted that Donald Trump and his father evaded gift and inheritance taxes through methods such as establishing a sham corporation and undervaluing assets to tax authorities. The report claimed to be based on over 100,000 pages of financial documents, including confidential tax returns for the father and his companies.

In his dismissal of The New York Times and its reporters from the lawsuit, Judge Reed emphasized that legal news gathering is “at the very core of protected First Amendment activity.”

Mary Trump, aged 58 and the daughter of Donald Trump’s late brother Fred Trump Jr., filed a counterclaim in July against Donald Trump under New York’s anti-SLAPP law. She argued that Donald Trump’s lawsuit was “purely retaliatory and lacking in merit,” designed to “chill her and others from criticizing him in the future.”

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