Time to reset the clock: after dozens of empty threats, Donald Trump has made good on a promise to sue a journalist — or, in this case, three: the trio of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporters who revealed, back in 2018, decades of tax dodges and even instances of “outright fraud” perpetrated by the then-president.
Trump’s lawyer at the time, Charles Harder of Gawker-killing fame, declared the “allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” before going on to threaten legal action. (By publishing the 18-month investigation, Harder said, the Times “will be exposing itself to substantial liability and damages for defamation.”)
That long-promised litigation has finally materialized, but it’s not for libel or defamation — it appears, in fact, that Trump has totally abandoned the pretense that any part of the Times investigation was false. Instead, in a complaint filed Tuesday in New York’s Dutchess County and first reported by the Daily Beast, lawyers for the former president claim the Times reporters forced his niece into a clandestine plot to “rewrite the history of the President of the United States.”
Here’s how Trump’s lawyers describe how they believe the events transpired:
[Times investigative reporter Susanne] Craig, who had no prior relationship with Mary Trump, appeared at her home and attempted to speak with her about “a very important story about [the Trump] family finances.” Mary Trump initially refused to speak with Craig, even going so far as to tell her “[i]t is so not cool that you’re showing up at my house” and further emphasizing, “I can’t talk to you.”
Despite her refusal, Craig persistently and relentlessly sought out Mary Trump in her pursuit of certain documents which she believed to be in Mary Trump’s possession. In particular, Craig was seeking confidential documents …Craig expressed to Mary Trump that she believed that these documents could help “rewrite the history of the President of the United States.”
Eventually, Trump’s lawyers claim, his niece agreed to help, at which point Craig “directed Mary Trump” to “smuggle” the documents out of her lawyer’s office, while using “a ‘burner’ phone in an attempt to conceal their communications.” If it weren’t for the browbeating she received from Craig, Trump’s lawyers say, Mary Trump never would have turned over tens of thousands of pages of her uncle’s tax records.
The rest of the story is well-known: the Times went on to publish an exhaustive 18-month investigation based on the tax records — which, the suit notes with apparent pride, garnered “more views than any previous article in The Times’ history,” and coincided with a 7.4% bump in the Times stock price. (The lawsuit make no mention of the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting the three reporters won for the series.)
Reached for comment by the Daily Beast, Mary Trump seemed neither fazed nor amused by the suit from her uncle. “I think he is a fucking loser, and he is going to throw anything against the wall he can,” she said. “It’s desperation. The walls are closing in and he is throwing anything against the wall that will stick. As is always the case with Donald, he’ll try and change the subject.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Mary Trump’s lawyer, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., added, “This is the latest in a long line of frivolous lawsuits by Donald Trump that target truthful speech and important journalism on issues of public concern. It is doomed to failure like the rest of his baseless efforts to chill freedom of speech and of the press.”
The former president is seeking damages from both Mary Trump and the Times of “an amount to be determined at trial, but believed to be no less than One Hundred Million Dollars.”