Lawyers for Donald Trump’s niece seeking to clear her path to publish a book about the family have cited “bombshell” New York Times reporting on the Trumps’ tax affairs as proof a non-disclosure agreement signed in 2001 was based on “demonstrably fraudulent” financial information and should be held invalid.
Attorneys for Mary Trump made the argument in filings in New York state supreme court in Dutchess county this week.
Simon & Schuster is set to publish Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man on 28 July. The president’s brother, Robert Trump, is seeking to block it, citing the NDA which was signed after litigation over a family will.
Earlier this week, a judge in New York granted a temporary restraining order against Mary Trump and the publisher. But in a sign that the book is likely to come out regardless, Simon & Schuster was released from the order, after saying it had printed 75,000 copies and started to ship them to sellers, and had been unaware of the NDA.
Simon & Schuster also published The Room Where It Happened, former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all memoir which a federal judge declined to block. It sold nearly 800,000 copies in its first week in stores.
In a statement, Simon & Schuster echoed lawyers for Mary Trump when it cited first amendment guarantees of free speech and said the book was of “great interest and importance to the national discourse that fully deserves to be published for the benefit of the American public”.
It added: “As all know, there are well-established precedents against prior restraint and pre-publication injunctions, and we remain confident that the preliminary injunction will be denied.”
A hearing is scheduled for 10 July.
Mary Trump is the daughter of the president’s elder brother, Fred Trump, who died in 1981. She has rarely spoken publicly but she has expressed dismay over her uncle’s political career on social media.
In publicity material, Simon & Schuster says the trained clinical psychologist will offer both a “revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J Trump and the toxic family that made him” and “a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships … neglect and abuse”.
Mary Trump was reportedly a key source for the Times reporting on the Trump family’s taxes, which won a Pulitzer prize.
In an affidavit filed on Thursday, she said: “The New York Times’s detailed analysis and investigation revealed for the first time that the valuations on which I had relied in entering into the settlement agreement, and which were used to determine my compensation under the agreement, were fraudulent.
“I relied on the false valuations provided to me by my uncles and aunt, and would never have entered into the agreement had I known the true value of the assets involved.”
Donald Trump’s surviving siblings are Robert Trump, a businessman; Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired judge; and Elizabeth Trump Grau, a retired banker.
“I never believed that the settlement agreement resolving discrete financial disputes could possibly restrict me from telling the story of my life or publishing a book,” Mary Trump said, “… including the conduct and character of my uncle, the sitting president of the United States, during his campaign for re-election, my aunt Maryanne, a former federal judge, or my uncle Robert, a prominent public figure.
“Moreover, my uncle, the president, has spoken out about our family and the will dispute on numerous occasions.”
Mary Trump’s lawyers also cited the president’s hunger for media coverage.
“President Trump himself has contributed to his and his family’s notoriety in a variety of ways,” they wrote, “including as the author of nearly 20 books on a variety of topics, including his family, his wealth, his businesses and his own life.
“Among the most notable of all the media coverage of the Trump family is a bombshell investigative piece published in the New York Times on 2 October 2018, describing schemes Donald Trump and his father employed to transfer nearly a half a billion dollars to Donald Trump, Robert Trump and Maryanne Trump Barry, while systematically evading their tax obligations.”
Robert Trump, the lawyers wrote, “is concerned that [Mary] Trump will reveal details about her dealings with the New York Times, her difficult relationship with her family, and the Trump family’s financial dealings. But all of those facts have been made public.
“Contemporaneous news reports surrounding [Mary] Trump’s suit 20 years ago laid bare the rancorous relationship between the Trump family and [Mary] Trump.”
Robert Trump is represented by Charles Harder, a lawyer who has worked extensively for the president.
Responding to the temporary restraining order against Mary Trump, Harder said he would seek the “maximum remedies available” for what he called her “truly reprehensible” actions.
“Short of corrective action to immediately cease their egregious conduct,” he added, “we will pursue this case to the very end.”
Harder has called the New York Times’ reporting on Trump family tax affairs “100% false, and highly defamatory” and said: “There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone.”
Breaking with precedent, Donald Trump did not release his tax records while running for office. He has not released them since, despite promising to do so.
The president’s financial records have become the subject of legal tussles between the White House, Democrats in Congress and prosecutors in New York. A supreme court ruling on whether they should be released is eagerly awaited.