NY Times Beats Trump Suit Over Pulitzer Report on His Taxes
(Bloomberg) — A judge dismissed Donald Trump’s $100 million lawsuit against the New York Times and its reporters over an award-winning 2018 expose on his taxes.
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New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed threw out the case in a ruling Wednesday that also ordered the former president to pay the news outlet’s attorneys fees and costs.
“Courts have long recognized that reporters are entitled to engage in legal and ordinary newsgathering activities without fear of tort liability — as these actions are at the very corner of protected First Amendment activity,” Reed said in his ruling.
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, contrary to his frequent assertion that he only received a small loan of around $1 million.
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“The New York Times is pleased with the judge’s decision today,” spokesperson Charlie Stadtlander said in a statement. “It is an important precedent reaffirming that the press is protected when it engages in routine newsgathering to obtain information of vital importance to the public.”
Trump had also accused his niece, Mary Trump, of violating a confidentiality agreement by acting as a source for the Times report — and alleged that the newspaper assisted his niece in that breach of confidence.
The judge said the reporters were simply reporting on a matter of great public interest. Mary Trump’s request for dismissal from the case is still pending.
The judge rejected Trump’s argument that a Times reporter broke the law by enticing Mary Trump to “pilfer documents” held by her attorney. Reed concluded that Mary Trump was a valid owner of the files and that her attorney gave her permission to take them.
Trump “does not cite a single case where any court, whether state or federal, has held that a reporter is liable for inducing his or her source to breach of confidentiality provision,” the judge said.
Trump attorney Alina Habba said in a statement that all journalists “must be held accountable” for civil violations.
“The New York Times is no different and its reporters went well beyond the conventional news gathering techniques permitted by the First Amendment,” Habba said. “In light of the Court’s decision, we will weigh our client’s options and continue to vigorously fight on his behalf.”
A lawyer for Mary Trump didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
(Updates with comment by Trump attorney)
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