Trump “has no principles — none,” his sister said on secret tape. But there are questions about her involvement in the family’s deceptive business practices.
President Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, sharply disparaged the president and said she believed he paid a friend to take his SATs in audio recordings published by the Washington Post Saturday night.
Trump “has no principles — none,” Barry said in the recordings provided to the Post. “It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel.”
Barry, a former federal judge, made the comments in a set of secret recordings in 2018 and 2019 by her niece, Mary Trump, who has emerged as a fierce critic of the president.
Barry said that Donald Trump “doesn’t read,” that “he was a brat,” and that she did his homework for him, adding that she believes he paid a friend to take the standardized tests that allowed him to transfer from Fordham University to the University of Pennsylvania.
The allegation that Trump cheated on a college entrance exam (which he denies) was one of the oft-questioned parts of a book by Mary Trump released earlier this year, in which she describes the dramatic inner workings of the Trump family and how it shaped the president’s psyche. The recordings with Barry, provided to the Post to substantiate the allegation, seem to be one of the underpinnings of her book.
There’s more to the story, however: Mary Trump’s spokesperson told the Post she recorded her aunt to gather evidence supporting her claim that she was cheated out of a significant portion of her inheritance after her grandfather and family patriarch Fred Trump Sr. died in 1999.
Barry, Robert Trump, and Donald Trump joined a lawsuit to prevent Mary from getting a larger inheritance, and she eventually settled the matter in 2001, after being told the estate was worth $30 million. She later came to believe it was worth around $1 billion and the family had lied about its value.
In her book, Mary Trump said she became a major source in a 2018 New York Times investigation into the sprawling financial corruption of the larger Trump family, who amassed their wealth in part due to tax dodges.
The Trump family has a long history of tax evasion and deceptive business practices
The publication of Maryanne Trump Barry’s comments marks the first time a member of the family besides Mary Trump has been heard disparaging Donald Trump, and his history of deception. But Barry herself has been implicated in the Trump family’s shady financial activity.
The 2018 Times investigation revealed a pattern of tax evasion that allowed Donald Trump to receive the current equivalent of at least $413 million from his father. Fred Trump, the family’s patriarch whose real estate business was the foundation of its wealth, further enriched the family by hiding millions of dollars of gifts through shell companies.
As David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner of the Times reported in 2018:
Much of [the $413 million] came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.
The IRS didn’t catch on, and Fred Trump transferred more than $1 billion to his children. The Trumps paid only about $52.2 million in taxes, rather than the at least $550 million they could have been forced to pay.
Barry was the co-owner of one of those shell companies used to draw cash from their father’s businesses by marking up purchases already made by employees rather than buying equipment for Fred Trump’s buildings, the Times reported, as it claimed to do. The millions of dollars siphoned through the company went — untaxed — to Barry, Donald Trump, and their other siblings.
In 2018, a lawyer for Donald Trump denied the Times’s reporting, saying the allegations of “fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” adding, “there was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone.” In Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, she said Barry denied a willing part in any scheme. “I met with Maryanne shortly after the article ran. She denied all of it. She was just a ‘girl,’ after all. When a piece of paper was put in front of her, she’d signed it. … She seemed unconcerned that there would be any repercussions,” Mary Trump wrote.
But after the Times’s investigation was published, a judicial conduct council launched an investigation into how Barry benefited from tax schemes and may have influenced actions taken by the family over the decades. The Times reported last year that Barry, now 83, retired 10 days after a court official told complainants that the investigation would get “the full attention” of the council, ending the investigation. (Barry was appointed as a federal judge by President Ronald Reagan. She complained in Mary Trump’s recordings that Donald Trump long held his “only favor” to her over her head: asking his lawyer Roy Cohn to push Reagan to appoint more female judges.)
Donald Trump has claimed on the campaign trail to be a self-made billionaire, and he has built trust with many voters on the premise that his business expertise can benefit the country. But the Times’s reporting illustrates how Trump — who was earning $200,000 annually in today’s dollars by the age of 3 — was propped up by family wealth.
The beneficiaries of the family scheme are now among the most powerful people in America. That will be on full display beginning Monday, when the Republican National Convention will convene with part digital, part in-person events throughout the week.
Some of the key speakers at the convention will be members of the Trump family. In addition to the president, Donald Trump Jr., Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Tiffany Trump are all slated to appear, making it a true family affair.