Donald Trump’s lawsuit against the New York Times was tossed out by a New York Supreme Court judge on Wednesday, with the former president being ordered to pay all attorney’s fees, other legal expenses and associated costs.
Trump, who is facing a number of legal battles, filed the $100 million lawsuit in 2021, alleging that the Times and his niece, Mary Trump, had worked together on “an insidious plot” to secure his tax records for a story on his tax issues, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. The lawsuit claimed that interactions between three Times reporters and his niece led to a “breach of contract” of a 2001 family confidentiality agreement.
New York Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed said Wednesday that Trump’s claims failed “as a matter of constitutional law.”
“Courts have long recognized that reporters are entitled to engage in legal and ordinary newsgathering activities without fear of tort liability,” the judge said.
“The New York Times is pleased with the judge’s decision today,” Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesperson for the Times, 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.”
There was no decision on the allegation against Trump’s niece, who acknowledged she was the primary source for the Times’s story.
“We are pleased the court reached the correct ruling dismissing Mr. Trump’s frivolous case against The NY Times and its reporters,” said Theodore Boutrous Jr., the attorney representing Mary Trump. “We are confident the court will also protect Ms. Trump’s exercise of her First Amendment rights.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The former president threatened to sue the New York Times shortly after the newspaper’s story was published. His attorney, Charles Harder, said the Times would be “exposing itself to substantial liability and damages for defamation” if it stated or implied that Trump participated in fraud, tax evasion or other crimes.
But legal experts said Trump would be unlikely to win such a claim. He would be required in the discovery process to share private financial information that he has been reluctant to disclose.
Trump has threatened to sue news organizations, including The Washington Post, for decades. But he hasn’t followed through on all of the occasions. He hasn’t seen much success from such lawsuits, either, as the courts have dismissed many of his claims.
For example, defamation lawsuits Harder filed on behalf of Trump’s campaign against CNN and the New York Times were dismissed by courts in late 2020 and early 2021, respectively. Both of those lawsuits centered on opinion columns that linked Trump and his 2016 presidential bid to the Russian interference in the same year’s election.
Similarly, in 2022, the board that administers the Pulitzer Prizes rejected Trump’s request to rescind the 2018 prizes earned by The Post and the New York Times for their reporting about his campaign and his administration’s alleged connections to Russia’s 2016 election interference. Trump had challenged the awards on three occasions, arguing that the articles included “false reporting of a non-existent link between the Kremlin and the Trump Campaign.”