American businessman, politician, and 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, has used several pseudonyms, including "John Barron" (or "John Baron"), "John Miller" and "David Dennison". His practice of sometimes speaking to the media under the guise of a spokesperson has been described as "an open secret" at the Trump Organization and in New York media circles. Some New York editors recalled that "calls from Barron were at points so common that they became a recurring joke on the city desk." A writer for Fortune reported that Trump's father Fred Trump had used the pseudonym Mr. Green in business dealings.
Trump has used the pseudonym "John Barron" (sometimes "John Baron") throughout the 1980s, with its earliest known usage in 1980 and its last acknowledgment in 1990. John Baron (played by Frank Sinatra) is the name of the psychopath who terrorizes a town while plotting to assassinate the US president in the 1954 film Suddenly.
The Washington Post said the name was a "go-to alias when [Trump] was under scrutiny, in need of a tough front man or otherwise wanting to convey a message without attaching his own name to it". Barron would be introduced as a spokesperson for Trump.
The pseudonym first appeared within a June 6, 1980 New York Times article about Trump's decision to destroy two sculptures he had promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barron", describing himself as "a Trump Organization vice president", acted as the spokesperson for Trump for three days in that case. Trump continued to pose as "Barron" on occasion for the rest of the decade. In 1983 "Barron" told the press that Trump had decided not to purchase the Cleveland Indians.
In May 1984, "Barron" lied to then Forbes reporter Jonathan Greenberg about Trump's wealth and assets to get Trump on the Forbes 400 list. "Barron" stated to Greenberg that "[m]ost of the assets [of Donald’s father Fred Trump] have been consolidated to Mr. [Donald] Trump." In April 2018, Greenberg retrieved and made public the original audio recordings of his exchange with "Barron", and stated that "Trump, through this [Barron] sockpuppet, was telling me he owned 'in excess of 90 percent'" of Fred Trump’s assets. Ultimately, Greenberg included Trump at the end of the Forbes 400 list at $100 million, one fifth of the $500 million which "Barron" was claiming as Donald Trump’s net worth. According to Greenberg, Donald Trump was only ever worth just under $5 million, which was less than 5% of the net worth which was attributed to him by Forbes at the time and less than 1% of what "Barron" was claiming. Greenberg has corrected the record by stating that, as revealed in court documents in proceedings years later, Donald Trump never owned any of Fred Trump’s assets until 1999 after Fred’s death, and even then, inheriting only his share of Fred’s deceased estate, with Donald Trump’s three siblings and some grandchildren beneficiaries inheriting their corresponding shares.
Also in 1984, "Barron" gave the press a positive spin on the 1984 collapse of a plan to build Trump Castle in New York. In 1985, "Barron" urged fellow United States Football League team owners to partially reimburse Trump for a high-priced player.
Trump stopped using the pseudonym after he was compelled to testify in court proceedings that “John Barron” was one of his pseudonyms. The Washington Post suggested that Trump might have used the pseudonym longer if not for the “lawsuit in which he testified, under oath in 1990, that 'I believe on occasion I used that name.'"
In 1991, a reporter for People attempted to interview Trump about the end of his marriage to Ivana and his rumored association with other women. She was called back by a publicist who gave his name as "John Miller", who gave her a long interview about Trump's marital affairs ("He's a good guy, and he's not going to hurt anybody. . . . He treated his wife well and . . . he will treat Marla well."), his attractiveness to women, and his wealth. The reporter thought at the time that "Miller" sounded remarkably like Trump, and played the tape to several people who knew Trump and agreed it was Trump. She says Trump later told her it was a "joke gone awry".
In 2016, The Washington Post obtained a copy of the tape and reported that it was Trump using a pseudonym. Trump denied it, saying "It was not me on the phone." Later, when a reporter asked Trump if he had ever employed a spokesperson named John Miller, he hung up on them.
The name "David Dennison" was used as a pseudonym for Trump by his personal lawyer Michael Cohen in a 2016 pre-election non-disclosure agreement with pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels (born Stephanie Gregory Clifford and identified in the document as Peggy Peterson) regarding her allegation that she and Trump had an extramarital affair in 2006. Keith Davidson acted as Stormy Daniels’s legal representative in that agreement. Her current legal representative, Michael Avenatti, now claims that Davidson was a double agent all along working for Trump and Cohen.
The same pseudonyms were also later used in a similar 2016 pre-election agreement involving payment for the silence of Playboy Playmate model Shera Bechard in an alleged extramarital affair and a consequent pregnancy and subsequent abortion between "Dennison" and "Peterson". That agreement was also drafted by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, while Bechard was also represented by the same Keith Davidson who had negotiated Stormy Daniels’ agreement with Trump. In that case sources identified "Dennison" as Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who then admitted to the affair and the payment.
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