In secretly recorded audio, President Trump’s sister says he has ‘no principles’ and ‘you can’t trust him’

Maryanne Trump Barry was serving as a federal judge when she heard her brother, President Trump, suggest on Fox News, “maybe I’ll have to put her at the border” amid a wave of refugees entering the United States. At the time, children were being separated from their parents and put in cramped quarters while court hearings dragged on.

“All he wants to do is appeal to his base,” Barry said in a conversation secretly recorded by her niece, Mary L. Trump. “He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this.”

Barry, 83, was aghast at how her 74-year-old brother operated as president. “His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God,” she said. “I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.”

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Maryanne Trump Barry: ‘I’m talking too freely’

Maryanne Trump Barry criticized President Trump, her brother, during a conversation with her niece Mary L. Trump. (Blair Guild/Obtained by the Washington Post)

Lamenting “what they’re doing with kids at the border,” she guessed her brother “hasn’t read my immigration opinions” in court cases. In one case, she berated a judge for failing to treat an asylum applicant respectfully.

“What has he read?” Mary Trump asked her aunt.

No. He doesn’t read,” Barry responded.

In the weeks since Mary Trump’s tell-all book about her uncle has been released, she’s been questioned about the source of some of the information, such as her allegation that Trump paid a friend to take his SATs to enable him to transfer into the University of Pennsylvania. Nowhere in the book does she say that she recorded conversations with her aunt.

In response to a question from The Washington Post about how she knew the president paid someone to take the SATs, Mary Trump revealed that she had surreptitiously taped 15 hours of face-to-face conversations with Barry in 2018 and 2019. She provided The Post with previously unreleased transcripts and audio excerpts, which include exchanges that are not in her book.

Barry has never spoken publicly about disagreements with the president, and her extraordinarily candid comments in the recordings mark the most critical comments known to have been made about him by one of his siblings. No one else in the family except Mary Trump has publicly rebuked the president.

The transcripts reveal the depths of discord between the president and his sister, illuminating a rift that began when she asked her brother for a favor in the 1980s, which Trump has frequently used to try to take credit for her success.

At one point Barry said to her niece, “It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel.”

Mary Trump, 55, told The Post recently that her uncle is unfit to be president and she plans to do “everything in my power” to elect Joe Biden. Her father, Fred Trump Jr., died of an alcohol-related illness when she was 16 in 1981. In her book, she says Donald Trump and his father mistreated her father.

The Post sought comment about the tapes from Barry and White House officials on Friday and Saturday and did not receive a response. After this story posted online Saturday night, the White House issued this statement from the president that said in full: “Every day it’s something else, who cares. I miss my brother, and I’ll continue to work hard for the American people. Not everyone agrees, but the results are obvious. Our country will soon be stronger than ever before!”

‘He was a brat’

The allegation that the president paid someone to take his SATs, which was one of the most publicized allegations in Mary Trump’s book “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” stems from a conversation that Barry had with her niece on Nov. 1, 2018.

Barry told how she tried to help her brother get into college. “He was a brat,” Barry said, explaining that “I did his homework for him” and “I drove him around New York City to try to get him into college.”

Then Barry dropped what Mary considered a bombshell: “He went to Fordham for one year [actually two years] and then he got into University of Pennsylvania because he had somebody take the exams.”

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Maryanne Trump Barry: ‘He had someone take his exams’

In a conversation with her niece Mary L. Trump, President Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, accused the president of having someone take the SATs for him. (Blair Guild/Obtained by the Washington Post)

“No way!” Mary responded. “He had somebody take his entrance exams?”

“SATs or whatever. . . . That’s what I believe,” Barry said. “I even remember the name.” That person was Joe Shapiro, Barry said.

Donald Trump was friends with a person at Penn named Joe Shapiro, who is deceased. Shapiro’s widow and sister told The Post last month that he never took a test for anybody, including Trump. Mary Trump has said it was a different Joe Shapiro, but that person has not surfaced.

During a Post Live interview last month, Mary Trump was asked whether the source of her information was Barry. “I prefer not to say who it is,” she responded. “It’s somebody who would have absolutely no reason to make it up.”

Chris Bastardi, a spokesman for Mary Trump, said that she began taping conversations in 2018 with Barry after concluding that her relatives had lied about the value of the family estate two decades earlier during a legal battle over her inheritance, in which she received far less than she expected.

Under New York law, it is legal to tape a conversation with the consent of one party, which in this case was Mary Trump.

The inheritance dispute was settled privately in 2001, but Mary Trump has said she was duped into an agreement because the family said the estate was worth $30 million and she later believed the value was closer to $1 billion.

Bastardi said she recorded the conversations with Barry to gain information that would show she had been misled by the family about the estate’s value. “She hoped to prove this, as is often done, by recording words contrary to their sworn statements. She never expected to learn much of what she heard,” Bastardi said.

He said that Mary believed the information was particularly relevant given the federal charges that have been brought this year against prominent individuals who took “unethical steps to get their children into college.”

The president has said he got into what was then called the Wharton School of Finance at Penn — which he called one of “the hardest schools to get in to”because he is a “super genius.” The Post reported last year, however, that Mary’s father, Fred Jr., was close friends with a Penn admissions official. That official, James Nolan, told The Post that Fred Jr. asked him to interview his brother for admission, which he did. He was granted a place at the school, which Nolan said was “not very difficult” because more than half of applicants at the time were accepted, compared with last year’s 7.4 percent rate.

The Trump siblings have been publicly supportive of the president. The president’s other sister, Elizabeth, has stayed out of the public eye. The president’s younger brother, Robert, who died on Aug. 15, said in 2016 he supported his brother “one thousand percent.”

In 1999, when family patriarch Fred Sr. died, Barry joined with Donald and Robert in a lawsuit to prevent Mary from getting a larger amount of the inheritance. Mary had said in a probate case that she and her brother should have received an amount closer to what would have gone to their father, if he had lived.

On another matter apparently related to Fred Sr.’s will, Barry told her niece that she and Donald had a rift so serious that “he didn’t talk to me for two years.”


Barry received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College, a master’s from Columbia University and a law degree from Hofstra University. After being a homemaker for 13 years, and having eschewed the Trump family’s real estate business, she became one of only two women out of 62 lawyers in the office of the United States Attorney in New Jersey, where she worked from 1974 to 1983.

Barry has avoided talking publicly about her brother’s presidency while she was on the federal bench. In a rare public appearance, she used empathetic language far removed from her brother’s tough rhetoric.

Success can be as simple as the warm feeling you get when you smile at a stranger, someone you know must be lonely, and having that stranger return your smile,” Barry said in a speech to graduates of Fairfield University in Connecticut in 2011.

The president, meanwhile, has publicly spoken glowingly of his sister, saying in 2016 that, “We do have different views a little bit,” while adding, “She’s a very, very highly respected judge.”

‘I will level you’

In one of the taped conversations, however, Barry revealed how a deep animosity developed between her and her brother.

She recalled how she turned to him for help when she wanted to be nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship. She believed that help could come from his attorney: Roy Cohn, who had played an infamous role in the 1950s as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) on the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Cohn was “like kissing buddies” with Reagan, she said.

“He had Roy Cohn call Reagan about needing to appoint a woman as a federal judge in New Jersey,” Barry told Mary. “Because Reagan’s running for reelection, and he was desperate for the female vote.” Then, she said, “I had the nomination,” and Donald Trump never let Barry forget it.

According to a recent documentary film, “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” Cohn had been in regular touch with Reagan. Donald Trump met with Reagan at the White House on Aug. 4, 1983, according to presidential records. Reagan talked with Barry on Sept. 13, 1983, and nominated her the following day, according to Reagan’s daily diary.

“He once tried to take credit for me,” Barry said of her brother, quoting him as saying, “Where would you be without me?”

Barry said she told her brother: “You say that one more time and I will level you.” She told Mary that it was “the only favor I ever asked for in my whole life.” She said that she deserved the nomination “on my own merit” and that she was subsequently elevated to higher judicial posts without her brother’s intervention.

Maryanne Trump Barry: ‘Donald’s out for Donald. Period.’
Maryanne Trump Barry reflected on her relationship with her brother, President Trump, in a conversation with her niece Mary L. Trump. (Blair Guild/Obtained by the Washington Post)

“Donald is out for Donald, period,” Barry said.

Mary questioned Barry about what he had accomplished on his own.

I don’t know,” Barry said.

“Nothing,” Mary responded.

Well he has five bankruptcies,” Barry said. (Trump’s companies filed for six corporate bankruptcies but he has never declared personal bankruptcy.)

“Good point. He did accomplish those all by his self,” Mary said.

“Yes, he did. Yes, he did. You can’t trust him,” Barry said.

Maryanne said on another occasion that her brother kept asking about Fox News. One day, Barry said, the president called her and said, “Did you watch Fox News?”

Maryanne Trump Barry tells President Trump she doesn’t watch Fox News
While speaking with Mary L. Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry recalled her conversation with President Trump, where she told him she doesn’t watch Fox News. (Blair Guild/Obtained by the Washington Post)

“No,” Barry said she told the president.

“Why not?” he said.

I don’t watch much television at all,” Barry said she responded.

“What do you do?” the president asked.

I read,” Barry replied.

“What do you read?” the president said.

Books,” Barry said.

The president was incredulous. “You don’t watch Fox?”

Around the same time the conversations were being conducted, an internal investigation was underway of whether Barry violated judicial conduct rules regarding her role in working with her siblings in determining their tax liability. The investigation stemmed in part from an action that Mary Trump had taken: She had provided boxes of family tax records to the New York Times, which published a Pulitzer Prize-winning report in 2018 that found the president had engaged in suspect tax schemes that increased the family wealth.

Barry retired shortly after the investigation was launched, which ended the probe.

One of the most emotional conversations between Mary and her aunt occurred when they discussed the 1999 funeral of the family patriarch, Fred Sr., at Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City. During that ceremony, Donald spoke more about his own accomplishments than his father’s life, Barry said.

“Donald was the only one who didn’t speak about Dad,” Barry said. She told Mary that “I don’t want any of my siblings to speak at my funeral. And that’s all about Donald and what he did at Dad’s funeral. I don’t know. It was all about him.”

“I remember,” Mary responded.

Mary Trump said she has not talked to her aunt since the book was published. She said in the Post Live interview that she would not be surprised “if she never contacted me, and I think that’s fair. I understand why she would not want to.”

The Revenge of the Lesser Trumps

They’re imitators. They’re operators. And they’re turning their teacher’s lessons against him.

The problem with being Donald Trump isn’t just being Donald Trump. It’s all the other, lesser Trumps around you. It’s the versions of yourself that you create, the echoes of yourself that you inspire. They’ll devour you in the end.
.. From the master she learned how to draw and hold the spotlight: Mete out revelations. Hurl accusations. Contradict yourself. Leave everyone gasping, gawking and coming back for more.
.. “Trump and Omarosa Are Kindred Spirits” reads the headline on a new Bloomberg column by Tim O’Brien
.. The president, he notes, was “fascinated by her self-absorption and nastiness.” Trump stares into every mirror he passes.

“She may be the purest of all the Trump characters,” an unnamed former Trump administration official told Axios’s Jonathan Swan. “She may be the most Trumpian.” No maybe about it.

She made secret tapes, just like Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer. No one should be surprised, least of all Trump. When you grease the walls of your sanctum with lies and put fun-house mirrors everywhere, is it any wonder that the dazed people inside try to protect themselves with a lifeline like proof?

And didn’t Trump himself record people who called him at Trump Tower and later taunt James Comey by suggesting that he had audio of their conversations? Imitation isn’t just the sincerest form of flattery. It’s the cleverest kind of revenge.

Ask Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’s lawyer. He’s flirting with a presidential bid or at least realizing that such a flirtation is a brand multiplier. Last week he visited Iowa, and not for the soybeans. He made a big speech. Said that when they go low, he’ll go subterranean. He’ll tunnel. He’ll spelunk.

He’s not just Trump’s adversary. He’s Trump’s analogue, with a similar timbre and bag of tricks. Like Trump, he vents his scorn in crude put-downs. Like Trump, he views media ubiquity as a credential in its own right.

.. Avenatti was “a perfect foil for Trump, because he actually sees the world just like Trump does.”
.. In a way, Cohen sort of is Trump, too, with shady ties, bendy rules and limber ethics. His exposure is now Trump’s vulnerability. There’s actually a scene in Manigault Newman’s book where she and Cohen watch Trump eat a piece of paper rather than leave it around for presidential record-keepers.
.. Manafort faked an altitude of affluence that he no longer possessed, forgoing any salary as Trump’s campaign chairman, because he suspected that this would impress Trump, who has exaggerated his own wealth.
  • His hunger for attention became Rudy Giuliani; his
  • thirst for pomp, Scott Pruitt; his
  • taste for provocation, Avenatti; his t
  • alent for duplicity, Manigault Newman.
They’re an army of emulators, adding up to Trump. And they’re on the march.

Omarosa Manigault Newman releases recording purportedly made in White House Situation Room

The Washington Post reported Friday that after being fired, Manigault Newman declined a $15,000-a-month job offer from President Trump’s campaign, which came with a nondisclosure agreement stating that she could not make disparaging comments about the campaign, Trump, Vice President Pence, their families, any Trump or Pence family company or asset, and that the agreement would survive even if her contract expired, was canceled or she was fired. The Post obtained copies of what Manigault Newman said was the job offer and the companion agreement.

In her interview with Todd, Manigault Newman said she considered the offer an attempt to buy her silence. “They were not offering a real job,” she said. “They told me I could work from home, if I wanted to work. They didn’t care if I showed up.”

.. Privately, many are wondering how many tapes she might have — and whether they are heard speaking on them.

Manigault has tapes of Trump speaking, a person familiar with the tapes said.

Trump Signals Consequences for Michael Cohen Over Secret Recording

President Trump lashed out at his longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Saturday, suggesting that there could be legal consequences for Mr. Cohen’s decision to record a discussion

.. “Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”

.. advisers say has become more unwilling than ever to listen to advice

.. Mr. Trump signaled open warfare on Mr. Cohen, a longtime fixer he had until now tried to keep by his side.

.. While the president suggested on Saturday that Mr. Cohen’s recording may have been illegal, New York law allows one party to a conversation to tape it without the other knowing.

.. Mr. Trump himself also has a history of recording phone calls and conversations.

.. A person familiar with the discussions said that once The Times approached Mr. Giuliani, the president’s legal team chose not to assert attorney-client privilege over the recording.

.. John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, mostly stayed away from Mr. Trump.

Mr. Bolton wrote down four bullet points aboard Air Force One that he believed were relevant, including that Mr. Trump should acknowledge that he believed the intelligence agencies’ findings on the Russian meddling. He relayed them to the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

.. Trump has surveyed almost everyone he has talked to about his performance in Finland, but few told him just how poorly it had gone. Aides suggested different options for “changing the narrative,” without seeming to realize that a simple story would not suffice.

.. Mr. Trump ultimately came up with his own solution: He would say he had left out a word in the news conference with Mr. Putin

.. Ivanka looked for ways to push the narrative away from Russia.

.. She said her worker retraining announcement with her father later in the afternoon at the White House could provide a pivot toward a new story.

.. Kellyanne Conway, pointed out that Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and two other administration intelligence officials would appear at a national security conference in Aspen

.. Privately, Mr. Trump’s advisers have suggested that Mr. Cohen had done things that Mr. Trump was unaware of. The recording makes that harder to accept.

On his way to the New Jersey golf club, the president ignored several questions from reporters about why his campaign would have denied knowledge of the payments if he was on tape discussing them with Mr. Cohen.