Former US President Donald Trump waits for closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, the US, on January 11, 2024.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters
A New York judge on Friday ordered Donald Trump to pay The New York Times and three of its reporters nearly $400,000 to cover their legal fees for a lawsuit filed by the former president, who was impeached last year.
Trump sued The Times and reporters over a 2018 investigation into his finances and taxes that was based in part on confidential tax records. The resulting series of articles won a Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in American journalism, in the category of explanatory reporting.
Among those articles was one titled “Trump embroiled in dubious tax schemes as he reaps wealth from his father.”
Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said in a statement to CNBC that the Manhattan Supreme Court’s court costs order “shows that the state’s newly amended anti-SLAPP statute can be a powerful force to protect press freedom.”
“The court has sent a message to those who want to abuse the court system to try to silence journalists,” Rhoades Ha said.
SLAPP is an acronym for “Strategic Public Participation Litigation.”
CNBC sought comment on the order from Trump’s lawyer, Alin Habba.
Trump’s lawsuit, which sought $100 million in damages, accused the newspaper and reporters of engaging in what he called a “malicious conspiracy” with his niece, Mary Trump, to obtain his tax records for articles. The suit alleged that the defendants had a “personal vendetta” against Trump.
Judge Robert Reed threw out Trump’s lawsuit last May, saying his claim “fails as a constitutional matter.”
“Courts have long recognized that reporters have the right to engage in lawful and routine newsgathering activities without fear of tort liability — because those activities are at the heart of the First Amendment’s protected activity,” Reed wrote.
Reed’s decision last year included an order that Trump pay the attorneys’ fees and other legal costs of the Times and a trio of reporters: Susanne Craig, David Barstow and Russ Buettner.
The Times then requested costs totaling $229,921 for the newspaper and $162,717 for the reporters, and submitted invoices to support the request.
Trump opposed the request, arguing that he should pay nothing or that it should be significantly reduced because the invoice allegedly “included unauthorized or duplicative work and excessive hourly rates,” Reed noted in his Friday order.
But Reed found the amount requested was “reasonable.”
The judge cited the complex nature of the issues in the lawsuit, the number of lawsuits, the reputation of the defense attorneys, the amount of money at stake, and the defense attorneys’ success in getting the case dismissed.