A former Forbes reporter claims that Donald Trump, before he was president, pretended to be a Trump Organization executive speaking on Trump’s behalf and then lied about his wealth in order to crack the Forbes 400 list.
“He figured out what he had to do in order to deceive me and get onto that list. And he did it very well. And he maintained that persona of just sort of talking about his assets without any sense of debt and lying about it,” Jonathan Greenberg said in an interview Friday on CNN’s “New Day.”
Greenberg broke the news in a Washington Post story. He wrote that when he was compiling the magazine’s list of the richest people in America in the 80s, Trump had called him posing as “John Barron,” a purported executive with The Trump Organization.
Greenberg said Trump’s actual net worth at the time as a real estate developer was less than $5 million, though the magazine had listed it as $100 million for its first-ever Forbes 400 list.
“He should never have been there in the first place,” said Greenberg, who provided an audio recording of a phone call between him and “Barron” that he recently discovered to CNN.
Greenberg told CNN that Trump, as Barron, “lied” in saying Trump owned all of his father Fred’s assets, which he did not until his father died in 1999. The May 17, 1984, phone call from Barron came after Forbes had listed Trump’s holdings at $200 million in its previous edition, Greenberg wrote in the Post.
“Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump, and I’d like to talk to you off the record if I can, just to make your thing easier,” Trump, as Barron, is heard saying in the recording of his conversation with Greenberg. “I think you can really use Donald Trump now and you can just consolidate it. I think last year someone showed me the article and he had two hundred and two hundred and the other’s been pretty well consolidated now for the most part.”
Greenberger wrote in the Post that he decided to publish the off-the-record conversation because the “intent to deceive” released him from his “good-faith pledge.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. The Post reports that the White House declined to comment, and The Trump Organization did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.
A similar recording of a man who sounds like Trump posing as his spokesman surfaced during the 2016 campaign.
The Washington Post reported in May 2016 that Trump routinely made calls to reporters in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s posing as a publicist named John Miller or John Barron. Following the report, Trump denied it was him on the phone or that it sounded like him in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.