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Subject: Re: Goodbye Trump ?
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Lying from the very start, this guy was:

The Washington Post
Democracy Dies in Darkness

Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes
400. Here are the tapes.
Posing as 'John Barron,' he claimed he owned most of his
father's real estate empire.

By Jonathan Greenberg April 20 at 5:30 AM Follow
(Doug Chayka/For The Washington Post)

In May 1984, an official from the Trump Organization called
to tell me how rich Donald J. Trump was. I was reporting for
the Forbes 400, the magazine's annual ranking of America's
richest people, for the third year. In the previous edition,
we'd valued Trump's holdings at $200 million, only one-fifth
of what he claimed to own in our interviews. This time, his
aide urged me on the phone, I needed to understand just how
loaded Trump really was.

The official was John Barron -- a name we now know as an
alter ego of Trump himself. When I recently rediscovered and
listened, for first time since that year, to the tapes I
made of this and other phone calls, I was amazed that I
didn't see through the ruse: Although Trump altered some
cadences and affected a slightly stronger New York accent,
it was clearly him. "Barron" told me that Trump had taken
possession of the business he ran with his father, Fred.
"Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump," he
said. "You have down Fred Trump [as half owner] . . .
but I think you can really use Donald Trump now." Trump,
through this sockpuppet, was telling me he owned "in excess
of 90 percent" of his family's business. With all the home
runs Trump was hitting in real estate, Barron told me, he
should be called a billionaire.

At the time, I suspected that some of this was untrue. I ran
Trump's assertions to the ground, and for many years I was
proud of the fact that Forbes had called him on his
distortions and based his net worth on what I thought was
solid research.

But it took decades to unwind the elaborate farce Trump had
enacted to project an image as one of the richest people in
America. Nearly every assertion supporting that claim was
untrue. Trump wasn't just poorer than he said he was. Over
time, I have learned that he should not have been on the
first three Forbes 400 lists at all. In our first-ever list,
in 1982, we included him at $100 million, but Trump was
actually worth roughly $5 million -- a paltry sum by the
standards of his super-monied peers -- as a spate of
government reports and books showed only much later.

The White House declined to comment for this story. The
Trump Organization did not respond to a request for

I was a determined 25-year-old reporter, and I thought that,
by reeling Trump back from some of his more outrageous
claims, I'd done a public service and exposed the truth. But
his confident deceptions were so big that they had an
unexpected effect: Instead of believing that they were
outright fabrications, my Forbes colleagues and I saw them
simply as vain embellishments on the truth. We were so

This was a model Trump would use for the rest of his career,
telling a lie so cosmic that people believed that some
kernel of it had to be real. The tactic landed him a place
he hadn't earned on the Forbes list -- and led to future
accolades, press coverage and deals. It eventually paved a
path toward the presidency.

*** *** *** ***

Malcolm Forbes came up with the idea of the Forbes 400 in
1981 and assigned me to spend a year traveling around the
country and interviewing wealthy people and those who worked
with them about one another. The most challenging sector was
private real estate wealth. My grandfather had been an
accountant to a number of major New York developers, so I
had the advantage of knowing many of the players there. But
the reporting was opaque, because so few of the relevant
financial documents were public; we relied
disproportionately on what people told us. As the project
progressed, other experienced reporters and editors joined
what would become the most successful annual special issue
in Forbes history.

From the beginning, Trump was obsessed. The project could
offer a clear, supposedly authoritative declaration of his
status as a player, and while many of the super-rich wanted
to keep their names off the ranking, Trump was desperate to
scale it.

[I sold Trump $100,000 worth of pianos. Then he stiffed

When I first contacted him for the inaugural issue, Trump
pulled out all the stops to convince me that he was the
wealthiest real estate developer in New York. At an
afternoon-long meeting in his cavernous Fifth Avenue office,
he argued that his family was worth more than $900 million
and deserved to be higher on our list than any of the far
more accomplished developers (with names like Rose and
Rudin) who had spent generations building top-tier housing
in the golden borough of Manhattan. His father, Fred Trump,
was well known for building nearly all the apartments that
the Trump Organization owned before Donald even joined the
company, so it amazed me when Donald claimed that he, and
not his father, possessed 80 percent of the 23,000
apartments he said they had in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten
Island. He added that these were almost debt free and worth
$40,000 each.

I questioned his valuation. Trump shrugged and said, "Okay,
then $20,000 each." That would mean his family was worth
some $500 million, still atop our list for New York real
estate tycoons.

But that figure seemed high. I estimated the apartments to
be worth about $9,000 each: They could not easily be
converted to lucrative co-ops, and Trump had falsely
described the location of the Queens buildings. He'd claimed
they were in Forest Hills when, in fact, they were in the
far less valuable Jamaica Estates neighborhood a few miles
away. Since Donald's new projects were still in development
or unproven, the outer-borough apartments formed the basis
of a Trump family net worth estimate of $200 million.

Six weeks after my initial interview, I received a call at
my desk from Trump's secretary and gatekeeper, Norma
Foerderer . She said she wanted my work address so Trump
could send me an invitation to a company party. Then she
abruptly added: "Oh, Donald was just passing by! He said
that he wanted to have a few words with you."

I switched on my audio recorder -- my normal practice -- as
Trump expressed his concern for what he called "your little
article." He invited me for a follow-up interview with him
because, he said, he was richer than the rest. "I don't
think that you have your facts 100 percent correct" about
his standing vis-a-vis other New York developers. I was
contemplating a too-low appraisal of his net worth, he said:
"You had us down in a certain category, and then you
mentioned other names, and there's no contest, you know. I
mean, there's no contest. So I just wanted to mention

Trump knew I had doubts about his assertions, so he had his
lawyer, Roy Cohn, call me. Cohn spent most of his time
threatening lawsuits, schmoozing with mobster clients and
badgering reporters with off-the-record utterances that made
his clients look good and their enemies look bad. Cohn
surprised me at my Forbes desk that summer: "Jon Greenberg,"
a scrappy voice bellowed, before I could connect my tape
recorder. I took notes by hand. "This is Roy. Roy Cohn! You
can't quote me! But Donny tells me you're putting together
this list of rich people. He says you've got him down for
just $200 million! That's way too low, way too low! Listen,
I'm Donny's personal lawyer, but he said I could talk to you
about this. I am sitting here looking at his current bank
statement. It shows he's got more than $500 million in
liquid assets, just cash. That's just Donald, nothing to do
with Fred, and it's just cash." He concluded: "He's worth
more than any of those other guys in this town!"

I offered to have a messenger pick up the bank statement at
his office. Cohn protested that the document was
confidential. "Just trust me," he said. I told him I
wouldn't take his word without seeing the paperwork. "It's
confidential!" Cohn yelled.

[I study liars. I've never seen one like President Trump.]

My Forbes editors and I spent many hours deliberating about
where to place Trump. Based on what little we knew -- his
claims; a 1976 New York Times profile that said the Trump
Organization owned 22,000 apartments; and Fred's reputation
for housing a generation of working-class New Yorkers in
Brooklyn and Queens -- we ranked Donald and Fred in the
bottom tier among major real-estate developers, each with
half of a $200 million apartment empire.

Even though I learned later that this was far more money
than Donald possessed, it did not satisfy him for the
following year's edition. During his 1983 interview, Trump
claimed that there were actually 25,000 apartments and that
his net worth had ballooned because of the success of his
new projects, Trump Tower and the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East
42nd Street, as well as a pending casino deal in Atlantic

Then Cohn called again, this time to say Trump was worth
more than $700 million. I recorded our chat. He opened with
an outrageous claim that Trump had personally received $250
million from the recent sale of a 50 percent interest in his
new project to build a Harrah's casino in Atlantic City. "A
certain amount was cleared, say, around a hundred million,"
Cohn said. ". . . But the balance was used by him to
liquidate certain other things, which made his overall
position very impregnable. Trump Tower has been going like a
house afire, and the profits on that are much higher than
had been anticipated, and the same is true with Grand Hyatt.
On top of which he's been in a series of private
transactions, and he files with banks for between $700 to
$750 million, as well as with Equitable" -- Equitable Life
Assurance, the company that financed Trump Tower -- "which
backs him in all of his deals."

Again, Cohn refused to show me a statement, but armed with
misinformation about Trump's casino payout and claims about
cash flow at other properties, I inflated his (and his
father's) net worth to $200 million each. In retrospect,
Fred Trump was probably worth half that amount, and Donald,
once again, should not have been on the list at all.

The next year I received two calls from "John Barron," the
fictitious Trump executive who told me that Donald had taken
"in excess of 90 percent" ownership from Fred. He also
suggested that Trump was on track to earn a $50 million
profit every year from his first Atlantic City casino. And
so, in 1984, we increased Donald's net worth estimate to
$400 million and left Fred in, for his last year on the
Forbes 400, at $200 million. (Barron also bad-mouthed the
competition, saying that developer George Klein had struck a
"bad deal" to redevelop Times Square -- a bid Trump had lost
-- and was "going to go down the tubes.")

[Trump is calling Comey a liar because to Trump, all
criticism is a lie.]

Although Trump, posing as Barron, asked Forbes to conduct
the conversation off the record, I am publishing it here. I
believe an intent to deceive -- both with the made-up
persona and the content of the call -- released me from my
good-faith pledge. In a 1990 court case, Trump testified
that he had used false names in phone calls to reporters. In
2016, when The Washington Post published a similar
recording, Trump denied it was him.

Fred Trump turned down my attempts to interview him for the
Forbes 400. He allowed Donald to say whatever he wanted
about the family's business. In the only major interview he
gave after Donald seized the limelight, Fred told the New
York Times in 1983 that "Donald has a competitive spirit and
I don't want to compete with him. . . . He amazes me.
He's gone way beyond me, absolutely."

*** *** *** ***

Eventually, nearly every one of Trump's pronouncements about
his wealth unraveled.

The number of apartments was the first problem. The commonly
cited figure -- that his family owned 25,000 units -- began
with the mention of 22,000 apartments in that fawning 1976
New York Times profile. In 1988, after I left Forbes, I
counted the units and found fewer than 8,000. (I was working
briefly on a documentary about Trump that was never
completed.) Another Forbes reporter that year, John
Anderson, found the same thing. He called the Trump
residential management organization, he told me then, and
asked an executive named Harry Green how many apartments the
company owned. "About 10,000," Green told him, meaning that
our 1982 family valuation of $200 million should have been
just $90 million (below the cutoff at that time for
inclusion on the list). A few minutes later, Green called
Anderson back and corrected himself: Now there were 25,000

Another brazen claim was that Trump, not his father, owned
the company's outer-borough apartments, which his father
built beginning in the 1930s. Based on what Trump said
during our 1982 and 1983 interviews, I'd assumed that Donald
and Fred each owned half, resisting the son's insistence
that he had purchased 80 percent of the units or
consolidated the holdings himself. Still, this comment went
into the Forbes 400 records, and in 1985, after I left the
project, Trump was estimated to be worth $600 million, and
his father was off the list.

[Can a president who disregards the truth uphold his oath of

It would be decades before I learned that Forbes had been
conned: In the early 1980s, Trump had zero equity in his
father's company. According to Fred's will (portions of
which appeared in a lawsuit), the father retained legal
ownership of his residential empire until his death in 1999,
at which point he left it to be divided between his four
surviving children and some of his grandchildren. That
explains why, after Trump's companies went bankrupt in the
early 1990s, he borrowed $30 million from his siblings,
secured by an estimated $35 million share of his future
inheritance, according to three sources in Tim O'Brien's
2005 biography, "TrumpNation." He could have used his own
assets as collateral if he'd had any worth that amount, but
he didn't.

The most revelatory document describing Trump's true net
worth in the early '80s was a 1981 report from the New
Jersey Casino Control Commission. O'Brien obtained a copy
for his book. Trump had applied for an Atlantic City casino
license, and regulators were able to review his tax returns
and personal and corporate debt, giving them the most
accurate picture of his finances. They found that he had an
income of about $100,000 a year, while his 1979 tax returns
showed a $3.4 million taxable loss. Trump's personal assets
consisted of a $1 million trust fund that Fred Trump
provided to each of his children and grandchildren, a few
checking accounts with about $400,000 in them and a 1977
Mercedes 450SL. Nowhere did the report list an ownership
stake in the Trump Organization's residential apartments.
Trump also possessed a few parcels of valuable but highly
leveraged real estate, financed with $22.5 million in debt,
all of it secured by his father's assets. He did not own a
safe deposit box or stocks in publicly traded companies. In
sum, Trump was worth less than $5 million, not the $100
million that I reported in the first Forbes 400.

During our first interview in 1982, Trump informed me that
he had bought the Barbizon Plaza Hotel and the adjoining 110
Central Park West for just $13 million, a steal. While I was
in Trump's office, a broker supposedly called to offer him
$100 million for the property. Trump refused the offer while
looking me in the eye; he pointed out that his net worth
should include an equity boost of $87 million profit. I
believed then that he used a staffer to stage the call, and
I resisted the fictitious valuation. But the $13 million
price tag for a valuable parcel was recorded in Forbes 400
files, and it soon showed up in other publications, such as
New York magazine . It remains on Wikipedia today. Yet
tucked away on Page 63 of the Casino Commission report was a
section describing Trump's purchase of the property for $65
million, facilitated by a $50 million loan to Trump by Chase
Manhattan Bank. As with many of his buildings, Trump's debt
was far higher, and his true equity far lower, than he

Roy Cohn had told me that Trump received $250 million from
Holiday Inn for its half-interest in the Atlantic City
casino. But according to O'Brien, Trump's actual income from
the deal was a construction and management fee (not profit)
of about $24 million, while Holiday Inn financed the
construction of the $220 million casino.

[How do you write political satire when politics are a

Later attempts by Trump to paint himself as fantastically
wealthy were also duplicitous. In 1989, Trump sent Forbes
journalist Harry Seneker a statement of his $3.7 billion net
worth. I have obtained the letter. It indicated $900 million
in liquid assets. "I am more liquid than any major developer
in the United States," Trump wrote, inducing the magazine to
increase Trump's listing from $1 billion in 1988 to $1.7
billion in 1989.

But according to the New Jersey Casino Commission, which
issued another report in 1991, by the end of 1990, Trump's
entire cash position -- in both his business and personal
accounts -- was just $19 million. The amount was
insufficient to pay the debt on his over-leveraged casino
and real estate holdings while still covering his personal
expenses of $1 million per month. His net worth, the
commission estimated, was $205 million -- less than 6
percent of what he'd told Forbes. In 1990, the magazine
dropped Trump from the list and kept him off it for five

Forbes declined to comment for this article, but its top
editor, Randall Lane, interviewed then-candidate Trump for
the Forbes 400 in 2015 and wrote about the magazine's long
struggle to accurately assess his net worth in an article
titled "Inside The Epic Fantasy That's Driven Donald Trump
For 33 Years ." Of the 1,538 tycoons who had been on the
"Rich List" through the years, Lane wrote, "not one has been
more fixated with his or her net worth estimate on a
year-in, year-out basis than Donald J. Trump."

*** *** *** ***

I was a leading New York real estate reporter through the
1980s. I left the Forbes staff in 1983 but continued to
freelance for the magazine while writing major investigative
features as a contributing editor for the new Manhattan,
Inc. magazine, as well as New York, Avenue and New York City
Business. I knew all the key players. I thought I had a
handle on this material.

But Trump was so competent in conning me that, until 35
years later, I did not know I'd been conned. Instead, I have
gone through my career in national media with a misinformed
sense of satisfaction that, as a perceptive young
journalist, I called Trump on his lies and gave Forbes
readers who used the Rich List as a barometer of private
wealth a more accurate picture of his finances than the one
he was selling.

The joke was on me -- and everyone else. Trump's
fabrications provided the basis for a vastly inflated wealth
assessment for the Forbes 400 that would give him cachet for
decades as a triumphant businessman.

In truth, almost nobody had a clear picture of Trump's
books. In 1990, Trump brought in Steve Bollenbach as a new
chief financial officer to respond to lender concerns about
his crippling debt. "When Bollenbach began delving into the
organization's finances, he got a surprise," The Washington
Post's Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher write in "Trump
Revealed," their comprehensive 2016 biography. "The small
staff on the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower included
three accountants. Each knew about pieces of the fraying
empire -- the casinos, for instance, or the condos. But no
one knew the overall picture; there were no consolidated
financial reports."

In the absence of a functioning balance sheet, the list
didn't just make Trump feel like a winner, according to
O'Brien; it may have provided some of the documentation he
needed to borrow reckless sums of money -- vast loans that
he used, for years, to actually make him a winner. "The more
often Forbes mentioned him, the more credible Donald's claim
to vast wealth became," O'Brien said, arguing that Trump and
the list were "mutually reinforcing": "The more credible his
claim to vast wealth became, the easier it was for him to
get on the Forbes 400 -- which became the standard that
other media, and apparently some of the country's biggest
banks, used when judging Donald's riches."

Trump returned to the Rich List in 1996 with a reported net
worth of $450 million and an editor's note that he claimed
to be worth $2 billion. He never fell off it again. In his
book, O'Brien criticized Forbes for rewarding Trump's
fabrications, citing interviews with "three people with
direct knowledge of Donald's finances" who estimated his
true net worth after debts to be "somewhere between $150
million and $250 million." Trump, who had told O'Brien he
was worth $6 billion, sued for libel -- and lost. When he
lost his appeal in 2011, a New Jersey appellate judge wrote,
"The largest portion of Mr. Trump's fortune, according to
three people who had had direct knowledge of his holdings,
apparently comes from his lucrative inheritance. These
people estimated that Mr. Trump's wealth, presuming that it
is not encumbered by heavy debt, may amount to about $200
million to $300 million. That is an enviably large sum of
money by most people's standards but far short of the
billionaires club."

The opacity persists. In 2016, Trump's presidential campaign
put out a statement saying the candidate had a net worth "in
excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS." But he has never released
his tax returns, and he has said that the core Trump
Organization asset is the ownership of his brand -- an
ineffable marketing claim that is impossible to substantiate
or refute.

Twitter: @JournalistJG

Jonathan Greenberg is an investigative journalist, author
and new-media innovator.
Posted on: def3.i2p

o Goodbye Trump ?

By: Guest on Fri, 13 Apr 2018

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