Today’s performance by ex-trusted Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went far to expose a New York Real Estate guy that hustled his way in business , and to the Presidency, with falsehoods….
In 2013, months before Donald J. Trump approached Deutsche Bank seeking a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills, a mysterious new asset appeared on his financial statement.
It wasn’t a new hotel, office tower or golf resort. It was “brand value” — $4 billion of it, by Mr. Trump’s account.
The Deutsche Bank episode, along with Mr. Trump’s stunning claim of newfound wealth, emerged on Wednesday as his former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, testified before the House Oversight Committee. Mr. Cohen provided three years of financial statements. “I believe these numbers are inflated,” he commented dryly.
Without ever saying so, Mr. Cohen was tracing the lifelong myth-making practice that Mr. Trump ultimately rode to the White House — magically inflating the value of his business empire to create and nurture the brand of Donald J. Trump, self-made billionaire.
That myth-making began when, as a young man, Mr. Trump falsely claimed to own the real estate empire still owned by his father, the legendary builder Fred C. Trump. It continued through the flashy opening sequence of “The Apprentice” and on to the campaign trail in 2015.
The first public record of Mr. Trump’s financial exaggerations came in 1976, when Mr. Trump, just few years out of college, boasted to a Times reporter that he was already worth “more than $200 million.”
To support this fantastical assertion, Mr. Trump laid claim to various buildings and projects throughout the New York City area. In truth, his father owned it all.
Years later, it emerged in a public filing that his 1976 taxable income had been only $24,594.
In the 1980s, instead of appropriating his father’s wealth as his own, he was quick to diminish his father’s considerable achievements. He consistently cast Fred Trump as a behind-the-scenes cheerleader who ran a modest collection of outer-borough apartment buildings. Mr. Trump never mentioned his father’s considerable wealth, or the financial support that made his gilded life possible. He claimed to have gotten only a $1 million loan from his father — and to have repaid it, with interest.
“He was a solid guy and a bright guy and I learned a lot from my father. In terms of support, that was the No. 1 thing I got from my father,” he told the late-night host David Letterman in 1987, oddly referring to his father, who did not die until 1999, in the past tense.
Last year, a New York Times investigation found that contrary to his claims about a $1 million loan, Mr. Trump had received from his parents the equivalent today of at least $413 million. That figure was increased by legally dubious tax schemes, some of which relied on a reverse manipulation — lowballing assets when the tax man came calling. A lawyer for Mr. Trump said all applicable laws had been followed.
For years, Mr. Trump has provided unaudited financial statements as evidence of his wealth, both to reporters and to banks when seeking loans. (The deal for the Bills never came to pass.) In a 2007 deposition, he said the values could even fluctuate based on his “feelings,” and compared real estate valuations to political spin.
“I’m no different from a politician running for office,” he said. “You always want to put the best foot forward.”
The documents that Mr. Cohen presented to Congress show dollar amounts that bounce around more than Mr. Trump’s eclectic signature. In the 2013 statement, for example, the cash and marketable securities category more than doubled, to $346 million, from the year before, even as a note claimed that Mr. Trump had paid off a number of liabilities. That year, his claimed net worth climbed to $8.66 billion, up from $5 billion the year before.
Mr. Cohen said he often presented these financial statements to journalists at publications like Forbes to get Mr. Trump on lists of the wealthiest Americans.
Last year, Jonathan Greenberg, a former reporter for Forbes, recounted in The Washington Post that back in the 1980s, long before Mr. Cohen entered the picture, Mr. Trump had called him pretending to be John Barron, a supposed spokesman for Donald Trump, to get himself on the magazine’s list of the richest Americans.
Behind the scenes, though, when it came time to pay taxes, Mr. Trump was instrumental in depressing the value of his family’s assets….