Trump’s lawsuit against New York Times and his niece is a ‘stunt,’ her lawyer says

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 7, 2021, in Bedminster, New Jersey. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/TNS)
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Erik Larson Bloomberg News (TNS)

Former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against The New York Times and his niece over an investigative report on his tax avoidance for which she provided documents is just his “latest stunt,” her lawyer said.

The suit, which accuses Mary Trump and The Times of conspiring to breach a confidential settlement, is doomed to fail because the 2001 deal cited by Donald Trump was tainted by fraud and therefore never valid to begin with, Roberta Kaplan said on Wednesday.

Kaplan noted that the former president’s late brother Robert Trump already unsuccessfully raised the settlement, which resolved a dispute over their father’s will, in trying to block the publication last year of Mary Trump’s tell-all book about the family. She is now suing Donald Trump and his siblings to overturn that settlement, claiming they lied to her about the true value of her grandfather Fred Trump’s estate.

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The lawsuit the former president filed Tuesday in state court in Dutchess County, New York, “is clearly intended as a diversion from the very compelling fraud case that Mary Trump filed against Donald and his siblings,” said Kaplan. She said the settlement agreement, including the confidentiality provision, is unenforceable because it’s rooted in the alleged fraud.

Donald Trump has denied his niece’s fraud claims and moved to dismiss her suit.

The 2018 Times report, which won a Pulitzer Prize, detailed how Trump’s real estate business claimed suspiciously low valuations on properties to minimize tax liability and also revealed that his inheritance from his father was worth more than $400 million. Mary Trump later acknowledged she provided documents to the Times reporters, three of whom were also named in 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,” Donald Trump said in Tuesday’s complaint. “The defendants’ actions were motivated by a personal vendetta and their desire to gain fame, notoriety, acclaim and a financial windfall.”

Trump is seeking at least $100 million in damages. His lawyer, Alina Habba, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, are currently facing tax fraud charges in Manhattan for scheming to help employees avoid taxes by paying them in unreported perks like housing and cars. Both have pleaded not guilty, and the former president has said the case is politically motivated.

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