Donald Trump is suing The New York Times and his niece Mary Trump for $100 million, accusing them of a hatching an “insidious plot” to obtain his tax records.
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday (21 September) claims that Times reporters relentlessly sought out Mary Trump and persuaded her “to smuggle the records out of her attorney’s office” and turn them over to the paper.
The damning expose that followed cast doubt on Trump’s claim to be a “self-made billionaire” and revealed the extent of his tax dodges throughout the 1990s, including several instances of outright fraud.
Mary previously admitted that she released her uncle’s tax returns to The New York Times in her damning tell-all memoir, Too Much and Never Enough, whose publication the Trump family desperately tried (and failed) to block.
Trump claims that act breached a confidentiality agreement Mary signed in 2001 after settling a contentious legal battle over the will of Fred C Trump, Donald’s father and Mary’s grandfather.
His 27-page suit insists that the newspaper, its reporters and his niece are all motivated “by a personal vendetta and their desire to gain fame, notoriety, acclaim and a financial windfall and were further intended to advance their political agenda”.
Watch: Legal analyst breaks down the reality of Trump's lawsuit
Mary Trump seemed undaunted by the threat as she publicly hit back at her uncle, not for the first time.
“I think he is a loser, and he is going to throw anything against the wall he can,” she said in a characteristically blunt statement.
“It’s desperation. The walls are closing in and he is throwing anything against the wall that he thinks will stick. As is always the case with Donald, he’ll try and change the subject.”
The New York Times stands by its article, which saw the reporters awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2019 in recognition of their outstanding journalism.
A spokesperson for the paper said on Tuesday that its coverage of Trump’s taxes “helped inform citizens through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest. This lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news organisations and we plan to vigorously defend against it”.
The 18-month investigation found that Trump had inherited the equivalent of at least $413 million, much of it through “dubious tax schemes”, and that he and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents. Trump went on to help his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more.
The former president maintains his claim that he would’ve made all of his tax returns public, but was waiting for an audit.
Watch: What does woke mean?