President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, told her niece, Mary Trump, in secretly recorded conversations that her brother was “cruel,” had “no principles,” and cheated his way into the University of Pennsylvania, the Washington Post reported on Saturday night. Mary Trump, who is a clinical psychologist, recently published the book Too Much and Never Enough, in which she detailed the history and twisted psychological background of her famous family and how those dynamics “created the world’s most dangerous man”: Donald Trump. She provided the Post with transcripts and audio excerpts from 15 hours of recorded conversations she had with Barry in 2018 and 2019, including information not included in the book. The 83-year-old Barry, who is a former federal judge and U.S. Attorney, has not spoken publicly about her younger brother during his presidency.
Mary Trump recorded the conversations with her aunt in the hope of gathering information she could use in a legal battle with the family over her and her brother’s share of their grandfather’s inheritance. (Recording conversations is legal under New York law so long as at least one participant is aware of it.)
In candid remarks about the president, Barry castigated her brother for his administration’s horrifying immigration policy separating children from their parents at the southern U.S. border, and made other disparaging comments about the president, his character, and his accomplishments.
“All he wants to do is appeal to his base,” she said. “He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this.”
Reacting to her brother’s presidency, Barry remarked, “His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God … I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.”
“It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel,” she also commented at one point, according to the Post’s report.
Barry additionally said in one of the conversations that Trump “got into University of Pennsylvania because he had somebody take the exams” — which indicates that she was likely the source for Mary Trump’s allegation, published in her book, that the president had paid someone to take the SATs for him so he could transfer into the prestigious school — which Donald Trump has claimed he got into because he is a “super genius.” Per the Post:
Then Barry dropped what Mary considered a bombshell: “He went to Fordham for one year [actually two years] and then he got into University of Pennsylvania because he had somebody take the exams.”
“No way!” Mary responded. “He had somebody take his entrance exams?”
“SATs or whatever … That’s what I believe,” Barry said. “I even remember the name.” That person was Joe Shapiro, Barry said.
Donald Trump was friends with a person at Penn named Joe Shapiro, who is deceased. Shapiro’s widow and sister told the Post last month that he never took a test for anybody, including Trump. Mary Trump has said it was a different Joe Shapiro, but that person has not surfaced.
Barry also explained how she tried to help her younger brother academically, noting that “he was a brat,” and that, “I did his homework for him” and “drove him around New York City to try to get him into college.” She said she didn’t know of anything Donald had ever accomplished on his own, but noted that “he has five bankruptcies” which he achieved all by himself. “You can’t trust him,” she added.
In a statement to the Post after the story was published, President Trump responded, “Every day it’s something else, who cares.” On Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dismissed the story as “politics as usual” during an appearance on ABC News’ This Week. Meadows also tried to push back on Barry’s assertion that her brother does not read with an unlikely claim. “[Trump] reads probably more than anybody I know, which causes me to have to read more because every morning he’s giving me a to-do list. Every evening he’s giving me a to-do list,” Meadows said. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Trump campaign advisor Jason Miller tried to brush off Barry’s comments as a case of “sibling rivalry.”
After a long career as a respected U.S. Attorney and federal judge, Maryanne Trump Barry retired from the bench in early 2019 amid an investigation into whether or not she had offered tax-liability advice to her siblings. She admitted to Mary Trump that her brother had helped get her nominated for a federal judgeship by President Reagan:
“He had Roy Cohn call Reagan about needing to appoint a woman as a federal judge in New Jersey,” Barry told Mary. “Because Reagan’s running for reelection, and he was desperate for the female vote.” Then, she said, “I had the nomination,” and Donald Trump never let Barry forget it … “He once tried to take credit for me,” Barry said of her brother, quoting him as saying, “Where would you be without me?”
Trump’s sister indicated to her niece that she was offended by that suggestion, noting that she deserved the nomination and subsequently rose within the judicial branch all on her own. She also made it clear that she was upset by how her brother chose to celebrate himself at their father’s funeral in 1999:
During that ceremony, Donald spoke more about his own accomplishments than his father’s life, Barry said.
“Donald was the only one who didn’t speak about Dad,” Barry said. She told Mary that “I don’t want any of my siblings to speak at my funeral. And that’s all about Donald and what he did at Dad’s funeral. I don’t know. It was all about him.”
In their public statements, the president’s siblings have been supportive of him — but no one more than his younger brother, Robert, who died last Saturday at the age of 71. The day before, the president had visited his brother at a New York hospital before heading to the Trump family’s Bedminster, New Jersey, club for a weekend of golfing. After Robert died, the president called him his “best friend” and later said on Fox & Friends that, “He was my biggest fan. People would tell me all the time, ‘I spoke to your brother, and your brother was so thrilled.’ And so thrilled at what was happening. And what was happening for the country, he was so angry with China.” The president also pointed out how “there was not an ounce of jealousy” from his younger brother regarding his success. On Friday, President Trump held a large funeral service for his brother at the White House — the first time a president has used the White House for that purpose, for a family member, in nearly 100 years.
This post has been updated to include President Trump’s response and the Trump team’s pushback on Sunday.