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 comment.
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 wrong.
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.
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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.
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 that.”
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.
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 City.
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.”)
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.”
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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 again.
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.
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 100 Central Park South 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 onWikipedia 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 claimed.
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.
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 years.
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.”
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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 makehim 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 summarized O’Brien’s point this way: “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.
A recording obtained by The Washington Post captures what New York reporters and editors who covered Trump’s early career experienced in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s: calls from Trump’s Manhattan office that resulted in conversations with “John Miller” or “John Barron” — public-relations men who sound precisely like Trump himself — who indeed are Trump, masquerading as an unusually helpful and boastful advocate for himself, according to the journalists and several of Trump’s top aides.
In 1991, Sue Carswell, a reporter at People magazine, called Trump’s office seeking an interview with the developer. Within five minutes, she got a return call from Trump’s publicist, a man named John Miller. Here is a transcript of that call.
John Miller: How are you?
Interviewer [Female]: Good. How are you? What’s your name again?
John Miller: John Miller.
Interviewer: And you work with [indiscernible]?
John Miller: Yes, that’s correct.
Interviewer: John Miller. Can you sort of — I guess we’re going to try and put a story together and we have a deadline of today because our magazine closed, well, basically yesterday but we’ll probably get something together – you know, it’s been on the cover both here and the Post.
John Miller: Yeah, I saw that.
Interviewer: What kind of comment is coming from, you know, your agency or from Donald?
John Miller: Well, it just that he really decided that he wasn’t, you know, he didn’t want to make any commitment. He didn’t want to make a commitment. He really thought it was too soon. He’s coming out of a marriage, and he’s starting to do tremendously well financially. As you saw, he got his licenses five to nothing the other day and totally unanimous. And he’s really been working hard and doing well. And probably, as you know, there’s a real estate depression in the United States and he’s probably doing as well as anybody there is. And frankly, he wants to keep it that way. And he just thought it was too soon to make any commitment to anybody.
Interviewer: So what is going to happen when — is she being asked to leave or is she going to be allowed to stay?
John Miller: Well, he treats everybody well. You know, you don’t know him, but he’s a —
Interviewer: No, I have met him.
John Miller: Have you met him? He’s a good guy and he’s not going to hurt anybody. The one article said he was going to throw her out of the apartment is total nonsense. He is going to always treat her well as he treated his wife well. I mean, he paid his wife a great deal of money. He did it in a very bad period of time and, ultimately, that was settled. There were those that say that that was even put that way. I don’t know if you heard that but that Trump became poor until he got his divorce. And then all of a sudden, he’s been doing very well and I guess you probably heard that, too.
But he treated his wife well and he treated — and he will treat Marla well. He’s somebody that has a lot of options, and, frankly, he gets called by everybody. He gets called by everybody in the book, in terms of women.
Interviewer: Like who?
John Miller: Well, he gets called by a lot of people.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well, what about — this Carla Bruni, I mean, how important is she right now? Is she [cross-talking]?
John Miller: I think it’s somebody that — you know, she’s beautiful. I saw her once quickly and she’s beautiful and all, but I think that he’s got a whole open field really. A lot of the people that you write about, and you people do a great job, by the way, but a lot of the people that you write about really are — I mean, they call. They just call. Actresses, people that you write about just call to see if they can go out with him and things.
Interviewer: You can’t say, like, did Madonna ever really call?
John Miller: He was so set up with that. You know, Madonna called and what happened — I mean, I don’t know if you want to listen to this.
Interviewer: No, I do.
John Miller: Do you? Do you have a second?
Interviewer: Yeah, obviously.
John Miller: What happened is it was a benefit at the Plaza Hotel which he owned for Vreeland, Diana Vrelland, or no, for Martha Graham. It was a ball benefit for Martha actually just before she passed away. And Madonna was there and she came in a beautiful evening gown and combat boots. She was wearing combat boots, and Trump was asked to go over to meet her. And he was there just for a little while to say hello and to make a speech and make like an introductory speech.
Madonna was in the room, and so somebody from Madonna’s entourage, because she comes in with an entourage of dancers and everything else, and somebody from Madonna’s entourage came over and said, “Would you go over and say hello to Madonna?” And so he went over and said hello to Madonna and he gave his autograph to the dancers. She said, “These are fans” and all this. “Will you give them the autograph?” So he said, “Best wishes” or something. And then all of a sudden — and that was the end. And then he said goodbye to her and that was literally the end. He’s got zero interest in Madonna. It was literally the end.
And the next day in the newspapers, they had a story that he wanted to go out with her and everything else. Besides that, that she was sitting there with her boyfriend. I think his name was Ward or something —
Interviewer: Yeah, Tony Ward.
John Miller: — and she was sitting there right with her boyfriend. So, I mean, it wouldn’t be appropriate.
Then the next day, there was a story that Trump went to [inaudible] and Madonna was supposedly at [inaudible], and that was another total nonsense. So, somehow, there was a thing. And then she called recently about this fight and wanted to go out. You know, she’s got this PR machine that I guess you people play to very well but it really was nonsense. So, anyway.
Interviewer: I don’t think we ever reported that about Madonna and Donald.
John Miller: Well, she called and wanted to go out with him, that I can tell you. And one of the other people that you’re writing about — by the way, I’m sort of new here.
Interviewer: What is your position there?
John Miller: Well, I’m sort of handling PR because he gets so much of it. And frankly, I mean, I could tell you off the record. Until I get to know you, off the record, I can tell you that he didn’t care if he got bad PR until he got his divorce finished.
So when he got a lot of bad financial stuff, he liked it because, you know, it was good because he could get a divorce finished. And once his divorce is finished, if you noticed since then he’s doing well financially and he’s doing well in every other way. The licensing was five to nothing. And people are saying how come all of a sudden he’s doing so well? And then I guess Newsday about two weeks ago did a story on that. So I’ve sort of been put in here to handle because I’ve never seen anybody get so many calls from the press.
Interviewer: Where did you come from?
John Miller: I basically worked for different firms. I worked for a couple of different firms, and I’m somebody that he knows and I think somebody that he trusts and likes. So I’m going to do this a little part time, and then, yeah, go on with my life, too.
Interviewer: Is he trying to — I mean, is Marla trying to reconcile all this or is this —
John Miller: Marla wants to be back with him and he wants to be with her, but he just, he just feels it’s too soon.
Interviewer: What about the ring?
John Miller: Well, it was never an engagement ring, because that was my first question. It was never an engagement ring. It was a ring — I mean, he wouldn’t buy the engagement ring. Actually, he bought the ring at the Taj Mahal at Tiffany’s. The only place that Tiffany’s has that, you know, in a hotel is because of his relationship with Tiffany being the neighbor next door to Trump Tower and Tiffany decided to open up a store at the Taj Mahal. And this was a way of giving Tiffany some business in addition to getting Ivan — geting Marla something that would be nice.
So he did that, and as I told him and other people told him, when you want to buy a present, don’t make it a ring the next time. It was a little confusing.
Interviewer: Make it a chain.
John Miller: Make it anything. Anything but a ring, I guess.
Interviewer: Do you think there’s any fear that Marla will spill everything at all or — ?
John Miller: It doesn’t matter to him. He truly doesn’t care. I’ve never seen somebody that’s so immune, that he gets immune to, you know, some people would say you got bad press three or four months ago. Now, he’s starting to get good press where I don’t know what you call this but this is a big press.
But I’ve never seen somebody so immune to — he actually thrived on the bad press initially. And once the divorce was over, he said, “We have to change this” and it’s very interesting. Frankly, if he got good press during the divorce, he’d be in court right now because she settled because she thought that she better believe the press and she settled. And now, he’s doing great and now she would like not to settle.
Ivana, when she didn’t settle, she made a huge mistake and she’s now had a huge fight with her lawyer, Michael Kennedy, over why they made the settlement. And it’s over. He sort of laughs at everything.
Interviewer: How does Donald feel about Ivana’s [indiscernible] with Barbara Walters?
John Miller: Well, it was a total violation of — I mean, I could tell you —
Interviewer: Yeah. But then, that was — I mean, did the judge, Phyllis What’s-Her-Name?
John Miller: Gangel-Jacob, yeah, but that’s going to be — the judge felt that when Donald got Ivana to sign that agreement, that Donald got Ivana to void her rights and that the judge was wrong because there’s so much case law on that. And what happened is the judge said — by the way, she can take that clause out. She just said she’s not going to hold Ivana in contempt. In other words, if somebody — if she violates and she’s not going to put Ivana in jail for violating. Okay? So she didn’t void that clause.
Now, Donald’s got a decision as to whether or not he wants to pay her any more money because by violating that clause, he in theory doesn’t have to pay her any money.
Interviewer: Being the good guy that he’s trying to be — I mean —
John Miller: I’m not sure what he’s going to do. Again, you could say that she shouldn’t have done that either. I mean, you sign an agreement, you go through months and months, and she can’t say she didn’t know this one. And what he did was smart because he got not only Ivana to sign the agreement, but he got Ivana’s lawyers to sign the agreement that she’d do it, that she speaks English perfectly, that everything in the agreement is known and studied and everything else.
So, in theory, I think he could probably — you know, I think that could have cost her many millions of dollars. I don’t know that he’s going to enforce it or not.
Interviewer: What about that whole thing that was brought up in the news whether Marla wouldn’t sign any sort of prenuptial? Did that have anything to do with the ending of the relationship?
John Miller: No, no.
Interviewer: Was that true? I mean, was he trying to get her to sign anything?
John Miller: Well, I can tell you this. Just off the record, there’s no way he gets married without a prenuptial agreement. You understand that. It was painful but worked in the Ivana case because, you know, while it was challenged, it still ended up being upheld and worked. And frankly, she got not exactly one penny, she didn’t get one penny more than what the agreement called for. So that’s that. And she spent a lot of money on lawyers and a lot of money on everything and that was the year of the circus, but they do stand up.
I can tell you there was never any talk of marriage from Donald’s point of view. I can also say that Marla would’ve liked to get married, obviously, but it was just something he didn’t want to do. It’s just too soon. And, you know, hopefully, he’ll maintain a good relationship with Marla. [Indiscernible] but it’s just too soon.
Interviewer: What about this Ivana thing? It says in the Newsday Trump also told friends that when he and Ivana met last week, she indicated that she would be interested in reconciliation?
John Miller: Ivana wants to get back with Donald, but she —
Interviewer: Really? After saying on Barbara Walters that she never would?
John Miller: What is she going to say? What is she going to say? She’s going to say when he’s with somebody else and had other people lined up, is she going to say, “Yes, I want to get back. I want to get back.” You know, she’s a pretty savvy woman and she’s not going to say — I mean, he’s living with Marla and he’s got three other girlfriends, and then, and she’s not going to say, I really want to get back, you know? She wants to get back, she’s told it to a lot of her friends and she’s told it to him, but it’s so highly unlikely. That’s off the record. He left. I mean, it was his choice to leave and he left.
Interviewer: He left for Marla.
John Miller: No, he didn’t leave, no. See, that’s the biggest misconception of this whole thing. The second question I asked about after the ring was the biggest misconception is he left. He didn’t leave for Marla. He really left for himself. He didn’t leave for Marla. He never left for Marla. He was going to leave anyway. Marla was there, but he was going to leave anyway. Whether there was a Marla or not he was going to leave anyway.
So now he has somebody else named Carla who is beautiful and I guess you have something on her. I don’t know if you do or not.
Interviewer: No, they won’t talk about her. He didn’t say anything about her. I mean, she’s a daughter of who —
John Miller: Well, she’s a very successful model, etc., etc. But again, he didn’t leave Marla for her. He just wants [indiscernible], he does things for himself. He leaves for himself, he does things for himself. He, when he makes the decision, that will be a very lucky woman. But he’s not going to do that until he makes the decision. You know, when he makes the decision, he’s very capable of a total commitment when he makes the decision. But he felt it’s too soon. Off the record, he probably felt Marla wasn’t the right one, or whatever, but he just felt it was too soon.
Interviewer: How did he meet Carla?
John Miller: At the Plaza Hotel, she was doing a Carolina Herrera fashion show.
Interviewer: Was Ivana there, do you think? Does she go to fashion shows?
John Miller: Well she goes to them, but less so since, you know, since —
Interviewer: When did he meet Carla there?
John Miller: Probably a few months ago.
Interviewer: Uh-huh. Have they been able to see each other?
John Miller: Well, not really. And again, I heard with Carla — I mean, I’ll give you — this is getting to be — this is a little different from what I normally discuss. This is I think an interesting point. Carla is a very beautiful girl from Italy whose father is one of the wealthiest men in Europe.
Interviewer: Who is he? What’s the name of her father?
John Miller: Her father’s name is — her name is Carla Bruni Tedeschi.
Interviewer: How do you spell that?
John Miller: I don’t know. She doesn’t use the last name because it’s too complicated, you know [indiscernible]. But anyway, but her father is one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Carla is extraordinarily beautiful and didn’t want to be a model except that every time she’d go to a show, [indiscernible] to look, Ralph Lauren and various people would say, Carla, you have to be on the show, etc., etc. So she does all of the top shows and she’s always very busy and very successful, etc., etc. She was having a big thing with Mick Jagger. Did you hear about this?
Interviewer: Well, I’ve just been reading about it.
John Miller: What happened is she was going with Eric Clapton.
Interviewer: Mick Jagger, who was married at that point?
John Miller: Mick Jagger, as of three months ago she was having a big thing. [indiscernible] What she – Just doesn’t want to be in the limelight. What she was having a very big thing with Mick Jagger. And then what happened, she was going with Eric Clapton, and Eric Clapton introduced her to Mick Jagger, and then Mick Jagger started calling her, and she ended up going with Mick Jagger. And then she dropped Mick Jagger for Donald, and that’s where it is right now. And again, he’s not making any commitments to Carla either just so you understand.
Interviewer: What kinds of things have they done? I mean, do they go out? [Indiscernible]
John Miller: Well, they just get along very good and she’s very pretty and all of that stuff. But, you know, he doesn’t have any idea who she is, right? When he meets the right woman, it’s going to be a great relationship and it’s going to be a very, you know, because he believes strongly in the marriage concept. In all fairness, he was married for 12 years and he was happily married for 12, you know, for many of those years, I guess, and he believes in it, especially in this society today, I can tell you. But he believes in it.
Interviewer: Where is he living now? I mean is he —
John Miller: He lives in Trump Tower. He has the apartment at the top of Trump Tower.
Interviewer: Okay. And Ivana also has an apartment at Trump Tower?
John Miller: She has an apartment at Trump Tower, but the court order is that she has to leave within a period of less than a year.
Interviewer: Yeah. Right. Okay. Listen, can I —
[End of transcript]