"The walls are closing in": Mary Trump slams uncle after Donald Trump sues her, New York Times

The suit alleges that his niece broke a 2001 settlement by giving over confidential tax documents to the Times

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published September 22, 2021 12:22PM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to speak at the Rally To Protect Our Elections conference on July 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to speak at the Rally To Protect Our Elections conference on July 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Donald Trump on Tuesday filed a $100 million lawsuit against his niece, Mary Trump, and The New York Times, accusing both of "maliciously conspiring against him" to release secret documents that would harm his public image. 

"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 suit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, states. "The defendants' actions were 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."

Trump's suit specifically alleges that his niece violated a previous settlement agreement that otherwise prohibited her from releasing his private tax information back in 2001. Mary, it claims, "smuggle[d] records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to the Times," whose reporters then used the information to "falsely legitimiz[e] their publicized works."

The Times reporters named in the suit include Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner. The trio previously received a Pulitzer Prize for their in-depth reporting on Trump's shady business empire back in 2019. They gained national recognition when they released a spate of bombshell reports a year earlier on how little Trump paid in federal income taxes. Craig, Barstow, and Russell, however, were not named in Mary Trump's settlement from 2001. 

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In her book, Mary Trump detailed how she gave the above reporters access to documents that allowed them to publish these reports, providing insight into his "dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents".

Mary Trump has demurred about the Tuesday suit, calling her uncle "a loser."

"It's desperation. The walls are closing in and he is throwing anything against the wall that he thinks will stick," she said in a statement provided to NBC News. "As is always the case with Donald, he'll try and change the subject."

The New York Times, which plans to challenge Trump's legal offensive, said that the former president's suit is "an attempt to silence independent news organizations and we plan to vigorously defend against it."

"The Times's coverage of Donald Trump's taxes helped inform citizens through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest," the paper added. 

Over Twitter, Craig personally defended the reports, writing: "I knocked on Mary Trump's door. She opened it. I think they call that journalism."

Mary Trump has proven an outspoken critic of her uncle over the past two years, publicly releasing behind-the-scenes details in the Trump family's dysfunctional interior life. Last year, she sued her uncle, as well as other members of the Trump family, for allegedly swindling her out of an inheritance.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Brief Donald Trump Mary Trump New York Times