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Judge dismisses Trump’s lawsuit against The New York Times

A New York state judge dismissed Trump’s claims against the Times and three of its journalists for their Pulitzer-winning series on his finances in 2018.
President Donald Trump gestures after disembarking from Air Force One after landing at Stansted Airport, northeast of London on December 2, 2019, as they arrive ahead of the upcoming NATO alliance summit. - NATO marks its 70th birthday at a summit next week but the celebration could well turn into an arena of political combat between the alliance's feuding leaders. Heads of state and government will descend on London Tuesday bracing for a scrap over spending and how to deal with Russia, in a huge test of unity within NATO -- billed by its own officials as the "most successful alliance in history".
Then-President Donald Trump at London Stansted Airport on Dec. 2, 2019.Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images file

A New York judge dismissed Donald Trump's 2021 lawsuit against The New York Times on Wednesday and ordered the former president to pay attorneys’ fees for the paper and three of its journalists who are listed as defendants.

In his ruling Wednesday, Justice Robert R. Reed of the state Supreme Court in New York County said Trump's claims against the Times and three of its journalists for their Pulitzer-winning series on his undisclosed finances in 2018 "fail as a matter of constitutional law." (Supreme Court is the name of New York's top trial court.)

"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 core of protected First Amendment activity,” Reed wrote.

Reed, a Democrat, also ordered that Trump pay the paper and its journalists’ attorneys’ fees, legal expenses and costs.

Reed's ruling comes as a defeat for Trump, who filed the $100 million lawsuit in 2021 against the Times, his estranged niece Mary Trump and others. The lawsuit alleged Mary Trump and three journalists from the paper — Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner — “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.”

Trump’s lawyers argued that the Times had played a role in “tortious interference” with a contract, knowingly breaching his contractual rights with his niece from a 2001 settlement agreement that bound her to confidentiality and nondisclosure of certain records.

Citing precedent in New York courts, Reed dismissed the tortious interference claim “because The Times defendants’ purpose in reporting on a newsworthy story constitutes justification as a matter of law." He further argued that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press to report on newsworthy subjects guards against such claims.

The Times welcomed the decision.

"The New York Times is pleased with the judge’s decision today. 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," Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesperson, said in a statement.

While Wednesday’s ruling dismisses the claims against the Times and its journalists, a ruling has not yet been rendered about Mary Trump, who has also filed a motion to dismiss.

A spokesperson and a lawyer for Donald Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday evening. Neither did a lawyer for Mary Trump.

Trump’s lawsuit is just one example of his legal battles over the disclosure of his finances.

While Trump tried for years to keep his tax records from public view, breaking in precedent from many of his predecessors and engaging in a lengthy court fight to keep them private, the House Ways and Means Committee finally obtained and voted to publicly release them last year.