A New York court tossed former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against The New York Times, a blow to Trump’s efforts to exact damages for the leak of his private tax returns.
New York Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed ordered the former president to pay all legal expenses, attorney fees, and other costs in a Wednesday filing. The judge said Trump’s claims against the paper “fail as a matter of constitutional law” and said the Times’ reporting was “protected First Amendment activity,” according to The Daily Beast.
Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, was also targeted in the lawsuit, which alleged that the Times and Mary hatched an “insidious plot” to leak the former president’s private tax records. The lawsuit alleged that Times’ reporters convinced Mary “to smuggle the records out of her attorney’s office.”
The former president’s lawsuit stated that the newspaper and niece were motivated “by a personal vendetta and their desire to gain fame, notoriety, acclaim and a financial windfall and were further intended to advance their political agenda.”
The leaked tax documents were first reported by the Times in 2018 in an article titled, “Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father.” The article said that Trump benefitted enormously from his father’s wealth when the former president built his own real estate empire. The Times report said Trump participated in “dubious tax schemes,” as well as “outright fraud” to keep his fortune.
The report earned The New York Times a Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for explanatory reporting.
Trump filed his lawsuit two years later. The Times defended its reporting, saying in a statement that “The Times’s coverage of Donald Trump’s taxes helped inform the public through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest.”
Trump previously tangled with the Times in a defamation lawsuit the former president’s campaign filed against the paper over a 2019 op-ed headlined: “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo.” The op-ed, written by a former Times executive editor, attempted to resurrect the conspiracy theory of Trump-Russia collusion.
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“Collusion — or a lack of it — turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers. There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo,” Max Frankel wrote.
The lawsuit over that op-ed was dismissed in 2021. The court ruled that Frankel’s article qualified as protected speech.