The Trump Files: Donald Has Been Inflating His Net Worth for 40 Years

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This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on September 12, 2016.

There’s seemingly nothing more important to Donald Trump than his net worth. The tycoon’s image is based on having over-the-top wealth, so he often pads his net worth by as much as billions of dollars—and sued a journalist who caught him in the act.

In fact, Trump has been doing this ever since he first started appearing in the press as a fledgling developer. His front-page debut came in 1973, thanks to a landmark housing discrimination suit the Justice Department filed against Trump and his father for trying to bar black applicants from their buildings and offering black renters worse terms. (The Trumps settled, agreeing to take steps to combat discrimination in exchange for not having to admit any wrongdoing.) Three years later, the New York Times made him the subject of a gushing profile that sexed up the 30-year-old developer—”he looks ever so much like Robert Redford”—and parroted his claim that he was worth “more than $200 million.”

As Washington Post reporters Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher charitably put it in their new book, Trump Revealed, the source of that figure was “unclear.” The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which later investigated Trump when he sought a casino license, found that Trump’s income in 1976 was a grand total of “$24,594, in addition to some payments from family trusts and other assets,” as Kranish and Fisher wrote. A year earlier, while Trump was trying to buy the Commodore Hotel from the bankrupt Penn Central railroad, “Penn Central negotiators had estimated the Trump family holdings at about $25 million, all of it under [his father] Fred’s control,” Kranish and Fisher wrote.

Trump did finally make it to the big time in 1982, when he was featured in Forbes‘ list of the 400 richest Americans. Forbes‘ estimate of his worth? $100 million.

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IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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