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Donald Trump can sue his niece over New York Times article, New York appeals court rules

Donald Trump can sue his niece over New York Times article, New York appeals court rules


By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York state appeals court says Donald Trump can sue his niece Mary Trump for giving the New York Times information as part of its 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into his finances and his alleged efforts to avoid taxes.

The Manhattan Appellate Division has found “substantial” legal basis for Donald Trump to claim that his niece violated the confidentiality provisions of a 2001 agreement regarding the estate of her father, Fred Trump Sr.

A five-judge panel said it was unclear whether Mary Trump's disclosures were subject to confidentiality, or how long both sides wanted the provisions to remain in effect.

It also showed that the former US president may have only deserved minimal damages, not the $100 million he was seeking.

“At a minimum, nominal damages may still be awarded in a breach of contract claim, even in the absence of actual damages,” the court said.

Mary Trump's lawyers said the lawsuit violated a state law prohibiting frivolous cases intended to silence critics and “chill and retaliate against” their free speech. These cases are called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs.

“Mary made a valuable contribution to the public’s knowledge of the former president through her unique perspective as a family member,” her lawyer Anne Champion said in a statement. “We are confident that she will be vindicated as the case progresses.”

Champion also said that Donald Trump “cannot claim any harm for publishing truthful information.”

Alina Habba, Donald Trump's lawyer, said she looks forward to holding her niece “fully accountable for her blatant and egregious breach of contract.”

Thursday's ruling upheld a June 2023 ruling by state Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed.

Reed also dismissed Donald Trump's claims against the Times and three journalists and ordered him in January to pay $392,639 of their legal fees.

In November 2022, Reed dismissed Mary Trump's separate lawsuit accusing her uncle and two of her siblings of defrauding her out of a multimillion-dollar inheritance.

The Times' articles challenged Donald Trump's claim that he was a self-made billionaire.

He said he received the equivalent of $413 million from his father, largely the result of “dubious” tax schemes in the 1990s, including the undervaluation of his family's real estate holdings. Donald Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Mary Trump, a psychologist, identified herself as a Times source in her tell-all 2020 bestseller, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man.”

The case is Trump v. Trump, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 1st Department, No. 2023-03021.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Rod Nickel)




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