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Trump clan ‘dirty laundry’ in book may not violate secrecy deal

Erik Larson
Bloomberg

The New York judge who ruled it was too late to block a tell-all memoir by President Donald Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, also signaled that the controversial airing of “family laundry” probably doesn’t violate a 2001 confidentiality agreement at the center of the case.

On Monday, state Supreme Court Justice Hal Greenwald in Poughkeepsie denied a request for an injunction sought by the president’s brother, Robert Trump, saying he failed to demonstrate that the “irreparable harm” from the book could overcome the protections of the First Amendment.

The cover art for "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man", left, and a portrait of author Mary L. Trump, Ph.D.

It’s unclear what will happen next in the litigation. For now, Robert Trump’s breach-of-contract suit against Mary Trump is intact, with a demand for unspecified money damages from the book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

The case is not the “slam dunk” that Robert Trump argues it is, Greenwald wrote in his decision. The judge said the president’s brother appeared to be interpreting the confidentiality clause of a 2001 settlement too broadly by trying to stop Mary Trump from discussing family relationships in her memoir. The agreement resolved a bitter legal fight over the wills of the family patriarch, Fred Trump, and his wife.

There are “too many words, with too many meanings” in the settlement, the judge wrote. “The cost of the litigation that was settled should have been finalized with more specifics, more clarity, if the current situation was even comprehended, at the time the agreement was signed.”

Later, he wrote that “the clause is so overly broad, as to be ineffective.”

Mary Trump’s lawyer, Anne Champion of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, said in an email that her client will be entitled to demand evidence from Robert Trump if he chooses to proceed with the case, even after the judge’s “comprehensive rejection” of his request to block the book.

The discovery process will “prove that plaintiff’s attempt to use this decades old settlement agreement to silence her is not only contrary to the meaning of the contract but that the settlement agreement was procured by fraud,” Champion said.

Charles Harder, who is representing Robert Trump in the case, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

Robert Trump still hasn’t formally served the complaint on Mary Trump, according to the decision. If he does, she’ll have a chance to respond and seek to have the case dismissed. She could also filed counterclaims against her uncle alleging the 2001 agreement was the result of fraud.

Mary Trump claims in her book that when she agreed to the 2001 settlement she was told the family estate was worth $30 million, while paperwork she unearthed years later show it was worth closer to $1 billion.

Trump has dismissed the book. White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany has called the work “a book of falsehoods” full of “absurd allegations.”

The book went on sale Tuesday and is the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon.com.