Following sexual harassment reports in New York Times & Palm Beach Post, Donald Trump threatens lawsuit

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LOS ANGELES — Lawyers for Donald Trump are “drafting” lawsuits against The New York Times and The Palm Beach Post, hours after those newspapers published separate reports in which women claimed Trump had touched them inappropriately.

Two high-ranking Trump campaign sources confirmed to CNNMoney that a lawsuit against the Times was in the works, but has not been filed. One source said the campaign was also drafting a lawsuit against the Post.

“NYT editors, reporters, politically motivated accusers better lawyer up,” one of the sources said on condition of anonymity.

The Times story features two women, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks, who say that Trump made inappropriate physical advances. The Post story features a woman named Mindy McGillivray who says she was groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago when she was 23. CNN has not been able to independently confirm their accounts.

If the Trump campaign does proceed with lawsuits, it will give both the Times and the Post the opportunity to pursue discovery and request information on Trump’s entire sexual history, because Trump would have the burden of proving falsity and actual malice.

When Times reporter Megan Twohey interviewed Trump by phone on Tuesday night, “he threatened to sue us if we published these allegations,” Twohey told CNNMoney. She quoted Trump as saying that “none of this ever took place” and calling her “a disgusting human being.”

Twohey also received a legal letter from a Trump attorney on Wednesday afternoon.

The Times published the story online shortly before 7 p.m. Eastern.

“I think it is pretty evident this story falls clearly in the realm of public service journalism, and discussing issues that arose from the tape and his comments since it surfaced,” Times executive editor Dean Baquet told CNNMoney.

A lawyer for Trump similarly threatened to sue The Times when it published several pages of his 1995 tax return earlier this month.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond when asked if Trump actually intended to file a lawsuit against the Times. But in a statement, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the “entire article is fiction.”

“For the New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr. Trump on a topic like this is dangerous,” Miller said in the statement. “To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election.”

“It is absurd to think that one of the most recognizable business leaders on the planet with a strong record of empowering women in his companies would do the things alleged in this story, and for this to only become public decades later in the final month of a campaign for president should say it all,” his statement continued.

Twohey said Crooks, one of the two women, reached out to the newspaper after it published a story in May titled “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.”

But Crooks was initially reluctant to speak publicly.

The other woman, Leeds, contacted the Times after Sunday’s debate, when Trump was asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper if he had ever done the things he described in that video.

“No, I have not,” Trump said.

Michael Barbaro, who co-bylined the story with Twohey, tweeted on Wednesday night, “This story might not have happened unless @andersoncooper had asked the pointed questions he did at debate.”

In the Times story, Leeds alleges that Trump, whom she says she had never met before, grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt while the two were on an airplane more than three decades ago. Crooks, who worked in Trump Tower at a company that Trump did not own, says Trump kissed her outside an elevator after she introduced herself.

The Times report comes in the wake of the release of a 2005 recording in which Trump boasted about being able to kiss women and grope them in ways that would amount to sexual assault.