Trump appeared to admit in a lawsuit that the NYT report on his taxes - which his lawyer had dismissed - is actually true

President Donald Trump at the White House in October 2018. Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Donald Trump's attorney in 2018 disputed the accuracy of aspects of a Times exposé on his taxes.

  • A new lawsuit makes no arguments about its accuracy but attacks the motives of those behind it.

  • Some see this as Trump conceding that the report was accurate.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

In 2018, when The New York Times published its bombshell exposé of Donald Trump's tax affairs, the president's attorney Charles Harder issued a broad denial.

"The New York Times' allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100% false, and highly defamatory," Harder said in a statement to the publication. "There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate."

But in launching a lawsuit this week against The Times and Mary Trump, Trump's niece, over the report, the former president seems to have shifted his position.

In the suit, filed on Tuesday in a state court, Trump sued The Times, three of its reporters, and his estranged niece, seeking $100 million.

It alleged that they engaged in an "insidious plot" against him in seeking out and publishing information from documents whose contents were protected by a confidentiality agreement.

Mary Trump responded to the lawsuit by calling her uncle "a loser," while The Times said the former president was seeking to silence news organizations.

In the lawsuit, Trump did not dispute the authenticity of the family financial records and other data that Mary Trump provided to The Times and that the newspaper based its reporting on.

Among those pointing out the apparent shift in Trump's claims about the accuracy of the report was NBC's Tom Winter.

"As far as this lawsuit, I think an interesting thing here, Chris, is that it essentially proves the story," Winter told the host Chris Jansing. "Because if the documents were, in fact, fake, there would be no reason here to sue. The president called this totally fake news when The Times started publishing documents about his tax payments and about his tax returns, so this essentially substantiates their reporting, because otherwise why would you sue and why would you claim damages?"

Trump's response at the time was a little more nuanced than Winter's account - in a tweet, Trump did not deny specific claims in the report.

"The Failing New York Times did something I have never seen done before," Trump said. "They used the concept of 'time value of money' in doing a very old, boring and often told hit piece on me."

By referring to "time value of money," Trump seemed to have been claiming that The Times did not take into account how the value of his fortune had changed. But tax experts told NBC News they weren't entirely clear on what Trump was trying to say.

A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on whether he now concedes the report was accurate.

Trump did issue a more sweeping dismissal last year of The Times' reporting on his taxes and financial affairs, describing it as "totally fake news."

The Pulitzer-winning 2018 report was one of a series in which The Times sought to unravel Trump's tax affairs, which he had shielded from scrutiny by refusing to release his tax returns.

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