Former President Donald Trump filed a $100 million lawsuit Tuesday against his estranged niece, Mary Trump, and the New York Times, claiming they conspired to obtain his tax returns for the paper’s Pulitzer-winning story on his undisclosed finances.
The lawsuit asserts that Mary Trump and three Times reporters — Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner — were engaged in what the suit calls an “insidious plot” and an “extensive crusade” to obtain Trump’s taxes.
“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,” the lawsuit claims.
Craig, Barstow and Buettner received a Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for explanatory reporting for their series of stories, which provided the public with an unprecedented look at Trump’s finances.
Mary Trump has said she released Trump's tax returns to the Times in her best-selling 2020 book about her uncle, "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man," and in media interviews, which the lawsuit notes. In the book, the daughter of Trump's brother Fred Jr. paints an "authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him.
In a statement, Mary Trump called her uncle desperate.
“I think he is a loser, and he is going to throw anything against the wall he can. It’s desperation. The walls are closing in and he is throwing anything against the wall that he thinks will stick," she said. "As is always the case with Donald, he’ll try and change the subject.”
The Times said in a statement it plans to challenge the lawsuit.
"The Times' coverage of Donald Trump's taxes helped inform citizens through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest," Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokesperson for the paper, said. "This lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news organizations and we plan to vigorously defend against it.”
The suit was filed in New York State court in Dutchess County, which is where lawyers for the president’s late brother Robert Trump filed an unsuccessful claim to stop the publication of Mary Trump’s book.
The 27-page suit alleges the reporter “relentlessly sought out his niece … and convinced her to smuggle the records out of her attorney’s office and turn them over to The Times.”
It added, “Craig, aware that the documents had been derived from the litigation proceedings of the Estate Actions, directed Mary Trump to retrieve the documents from the office of her prior attorney for the Estate Actions, Farrell Fritz, and to ‘smuggle’ them out.”
The suit claims Mary Trump violated a confidentiality agreement that barred her from publicly releasing details of the family’s finances under the terms of the settlement of Fred Trump Sr.'s estate.
The suit claims Trump's niece and the reporters were “motivated by a personal vendetta and their desire to gain fame, notoriety, acclaim and a financial windfall” and to “advance their political agenda.”