A former Forbes reporter says that President Donald Trump lied to him in order to make the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans, including impersonating an aide who didn't exist to claim wealth he didn't have. Under a previous editor of the Forbes 400 list, the magazine had valued Trump's assets at $200 million, only a fifth of what he claimed to own in interviews.
According to reporter Jonathan Greenberg's account of his interactions with Trump, the then-private citizen put Greenberg through the wringer to convince him how "loaded" he was. "And he did it very well", Greenberg said on CNN's New Day. What's more, Greenberg says Trump told him a series of whoppers that artificially inflated his wealth beyond its true value.
But in the interviews with Barron, who Greenberg said was really Trump, he told Greenberg that he was now a billionaire and owned 90% of his father's real estate business.
"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", Greenberg wrote.
"He is a consummate con man", Greenberg said. "It eventually paved a path toward the presidency", Greenberg wrote.
But Greenberg also concluded in his op-ed that Trump had no business appearing on the Forbes 400 list in the first place after showing up three straight times.
Forbes itself was wrong about his worth: In its first-ever Forbes 400 list, which came out two years before the exchange detailed above, Forbes reported that Trump was worth about $100 million. 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. During the 2016 election, Trump constantly boasted about his fortune, including one statement that claimed his net worth was "in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS", despite not releasing his tax returns and keeping any analysis of his finances behind a thick veil.
Greenberg said that his conversations with "Barron" were requested to be off the record, but Greenberg made a decision 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". The magazine instead published that Trump and his father Fred Trump were worth $200 million each.