Donald Trump should not have even been on the first three Forbes 400 lists, according to journalist Jon Greenberg. He got there by lying. The first time, in 1982, he claimed to be worth $100Million when he was in fact worth $5Million, a drop in the bucket, compared to the mega wealthy with whom Trump sought to be identified. In subsequent years, Trump got on the list by routinely quintupling, or more, his assets, which, because they were in real estate, were not as easily ascertainable as other valuables that Forbes took into consideration when making their evaluation. Trump got on the list, not honestly, but by calling up Forbes, presenting himself as John Barron, an official of the Trump Organization, and lying his ass off. Washington Post:.
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.
And John Barron wasn’t the only one pushing this narrative, which Forbes thought was vain embellishment and didn’t suspect was outright fabrication, about how wealthy Donald Trump was. Then Roy Cohn entered the picture.
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.
There we go with attorney-client privilege again. Cohen and Trump via his John Barron persona built up a house of cards to present to Forbes and eventually it collapsed.
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. […]
Another brazen claim was that Trump, not his father, owned the company’s outer-borough apartments, which his father built beginning in the 1930s.
And then here’s the truth. A 1981 report from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission found that Trump was making about $100,000 a year and his 1979 income tax return showed a loss of $3.4Million.
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 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.
Trump continued lying, inflating the equity in his properties and minimizing the debt. He is obsessed with painting a picture of himself as his generation’s King Midas.
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.”
Trump’s entire identity is anchored in how wealthy he is perceived as being, not how wealthy he actually is. Trump’s only yardstick for measuring his worth or anybody else’s is money and celebrity status. He is oblivious to actual human achievement because he’s never been capable of any and he has no character. He lives for self aggrandizement via his “brand.” When he ran for president he claimed he was 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.
Donald Trump is the Fraud in Chief.