Judge orders Trump to pay nearly $400,000 for New York Times' legal fees

Susan Walsh / AP

Washington — A judge in New York has ordered former President Donald Trump to pay nearly $400,000 to cover The New York Times' legal fees from a now-dismissed lawsuit he brought against the paper, three of its reporters and his niece.

Trump sued the New York Times in 2021, accusing the paper of conspiring with his estranged niece, Mary Trump, to obtain and publish his tax records. New York Judge Robert Reed dismissed the lawsuit against with the Times and its reporters in May 2023, ruling that they were protected under the First Amendment and ordering Trump to cover their legal fees.

On Friday, Reed determined that $392,638.69 was "a reasonable value for the legal services rendered," given the complexity of the case and the attorneys involved. (A portion of the lawsuit against Mary Trump was allowed to proceed, and her request to be reimbursed for legal fees was denied in June.)

In 2018, New York Times reporters Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russell Buettner published an investigation into Trump's wealth and taxes, revealing details from tax filings the former president had been unwilling to release publicly, claiming they were under audit. The paper later won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting.

"Today's decision shows that the state's newly amended anti-SLAPP statute can be a powerful force for protecting press freedom," a spokesperson for The New York Times said Friday, referring to a law meant to discourage frivolous defamation cases aimed at silencing defendants. "The court has sent a message to those who want to misuse the judicial system to try to silence journalists."

Trump claimed in his $100 million lawsuit that the reporters were aware of a settlement agreement barring Mary Trump from disclosing certain documents. He alleged that the paper and the reporters engaged in an "insidious plot" to illegally obtain copies of his tax records from his niece.

A spokesperson for Alina Habba, Trump's attorney who represented him in the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday's order. When Reed tossed the lawsuit last year, Habba said, "All journalists must be held accountable when they commit civil wrongs. The New York Times is no different and its reporters went well beyond the conventional news gathering techniques permitted by the First Amendment."

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