Trump ordered to pay $400,000 in legal fees to New York Times

Donald Trump at The New York Times' building, for a private meeting with its editors in 2016.
Donald Trump at The New York Times' building, for a private meeting with its editors in 2016. Photo credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt.

Donald Trump has been ordered to pay almost NZ$630,000 (US$400,000) to cover The New York Times' legal costs on Saturday, after a failed lawsuit.

It comes after Trump took the newspaper to court in 2021, accusing it and three reporters of plotting to publish his tax records with the help of his estranged niece Mary Trump.

But a New York judge threw out the case in May 2023.

During the lawsuit, Trump's lawyer Alina Habba told the judge 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," Habba added.

At the time, Judge Robert Reed said The New York Times and its reporters were indeed protected under the US First Amendment, and ordered Trump to pay the newspaper's legal fees.

But the payment amount has only been revealed today.

Reed said legal costs of US$392,638.69 was "a reasonable value for the legal services rendered".

He ruled the amount was appropriate due to "the complexity of the issues presented" and the "ability and reputation" of the lawyers involved.

The judge also ruled part of the case could proceed against Mary Trump.

Habba, nor any spokesperson for Trump have commented yet on Saturday's ruling.

"Today's decision shows that the state's newly amended anti-SLAPP statute can be a powerful force for protecting press freedom," said a spokesperson for The New York Times on Saturday.

The Anti-SLAPP laws in the US are designed to prevent lawsuits that aim to silence or intimidate defendants in a case.

"The court has sent a message to those who want to misuse the judicial system to try to silence journalists," the spokesperson added.

What led to the lawsuit?

The reporters in question were Susanne Craig, Russell Buettner, and David Barstow.

In 2018, the trio published their joint news investigation into Trump's wealth, business dealings and taxes, revealing details Trump wasn't willing to release publicly.

Their investigation won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 2019.

Trump tried to sue the paper for NZ$160 million (US$100m) and claimed the reporters knew about a settlement blocking Mary Trump from disclosing certain information.

The former president alleged The New York Times and the three reporters were part of an "insidious plot" to obtain his tax records illegally.