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. Greenberg noted that neither the White House nor the Trump Organization responded to his requests for comment. Trump wasn't just poorer than he said he was.
"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. "Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump ..." Greenberg was reporting for Forbes in 1984, helping to compile the magazine's Forbes 400 List.
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.
Greenberg says in the first Forbes 400 list in 1982, the then-real estate mogul was listed at $100 million but "Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million".
"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", he writes. For a man so obsessed with lists, he must surely be happy with his high ranking on the pantheon of the historically worst USA presidents. 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 NY accent, it was clearly him. "It eventually paved a path toward the presidency", Greenberg wrote. Trump claimed that these apartments were all but debt free and worth $40,000 each.
But Greenberg still found the claims to be high, and he estimated that the apartments were worth closer to $9,000. However, he also says that Trump's hyperbole about his net worth had the perverse side effect of making reporters assume he was only stretching the truth - not simply making it up whole cloth. The magazine instead published that Trump and his father Fred Trump were worth $200 million each.
Greenberg said that his conversations with "Barron" were requested to be off the record, but Greenberg chose to publish the interviews because he believed that "an intent to deceive - both with the made-up persona and the content of the call - released me from my good-faith pledge".