Trump Wins Legal Battle Against His Niece
Former President Donald J. Trump won a legal battle against his niece Mary L. Trump this week, when a New York judge dismissed Ms. Trump’s lawsuit claiming he and other relatives had cheated her out of tens of millions of dollars in inheritance.
Ms. Trump filed the lawsuit in September 2020 in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. She accused Mr. Trump, his sister, Maryanne Trump, and their brother, Robert Trump, of fraud and civil conspiracy, seeking to recover the money she said she was denied.
In a decision signed Monday, the judge, Robert R. Reed, said Ms. Trump’s claims were barred because of a settlement agreement she signed with her family in 2001.
Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Ms. Trump, said she planned to file an expedited appeal of the ruling, citing the age of the defendants and Mr. Trump’s apparent plans to announce a third run for president.
“Yesterday’s decision is very disappointing, especially since it took more than two years for us to get here,” Ms. Kaplan said on Tuesday. “In our view, the court overlooked applicable case law and the well-pleaded allegations in Mary Trump’s complaint.”
What to Know About the Trump Investigations
Numerous inquiries. Since leaving office, former President Donald J. Trump has been facing several investigations into his business dealings and political activities. Here is a look at some notable cases:
Classified documents inquiry. The F.B.I. searched Mr. Trump’s Florida home as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into his handling of classified materials. The inquiry is focused on documents that Mr. Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence, when he left the White House.
Jan. 6 investigations. In a series of public hearings, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack laid out a comprehensive narrative of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. This evidence could allow federal prosecutors, who are conducting a parallel criminal investigation, to indict Mr. Trump.
Georgia election interference case. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta-area district attorney, has been leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. This case could pose the most immediate legal peril for the former president and his associates.
New York State’s civil case. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, has accused Mr. Trump, his family business and his three adult children of lying to lenders and insurers, fraudulently inflating the value of his assets. The allegations, included in a sweeping lawsuit, are the culmination of a yearslong civil investigation.
Manhattan criminal case. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been investigating whether Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. The inquiry has yielded criminal charges against the Trump Organization and a plea deal with its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg.
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and said it was encouraging to see it dismissed. “I am happy the Trump family can put this ridiculous case to rest,” she said in an emailed statement.
Ms. Trump said she learned of the company’s tactics through reporting in The New York Times in 2018, which delved into decades of Trump family business practices. Before filing her lawsuit, she also wrote a best-selling memoir.
The lawsuit arose from a real estate portfolio left to Ms. Trump by her father, Fred Trump Jr., the president’s older brother, who died of an alcohol-induced heart attack in 1981, when Ms. Trump was 16 years old.
The portfolio included a stake in the family real estate business, including nearly 1.8 million square feet of Trump family real estate in Brooklyn and part of a property partnership.
According to Mary Trump, in the 1980s and 1990s, as her grandfather Fred Trump — the family patriarch — descended into dementia, Donald Trump and his siblings took control of the family business, including the entities in which Ms. Trump had inherited interests.
Between 1981 and 2001, Ms. Trump said in her lawsuit, Mr. Trump and his siblings siphoned millions of dollars from the businesses by taking “exorbitant management fees, consulting fees, and salaries” from the companies she had a stake in, and by issuing loans to themselves from businesses she controlled that “included no terms of repayment.”
At the same time, Ms. Trump said in the lawsuit, Mr. Trump and his siblings worked with a “friendly appraiser” to “grossly understate the value of Mary’s interests,” even as they “fostered the impression that everything was OK.”
After Fred Trump Sr. died, in 1999, Mr. Trump and his brother and sister sought to gain control of Ms. Trump’s share of the family empire, pressuring her to give up her interests and threatening her with financial ruin, she said. During subsequent negotiations to buy her out of the estates, the siblings undervalued the assets and cheated her out of tens of millions of dollars, she said in her lawsuit.
(Mr. Trump’s brother Robert died in August 2020.)
Ms. Trump also said that she signed the 2001 agreement under duress, after her aunt and uncles withdrew health insurance from her sick nephew and made other threats.
But the judge held that because there was no fraud involved in the signing of that agreement, Ms. Trump cannot challenge the terms of the settlement on the basis that she was improperly led to sign it.
Ms. Kaplan said the lawyers Ms. Trump had relied on during the settlement negotiations were in league with her aunt and uncles. “The idea that she was getting any independent advice from anybody is ridiculous,” she said.