Donald Trump on Friday denied that the voice of "John Miller" on a 25-year-old recording obtained by The Washington Post is, in fact, his own. Appearing on NBC's "Today" show, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee disputed a Post report that he posed as his own spokesman under a fake name during a 1991 telephone interview with a reporter — something he did habitually for years, often going as "John Barron" as well.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The Post also says this is something you did rather routinely, that you would call reporters and plant stories and say either you were John Miller or John Barron, but in fact it was actually you on the phone. Is that something you did with any regularity?
TRUMP: No, and it was not me on the phone.
But that's not exactly what Trump said under oath in 1990. During testimony in a lawsuit that dealt with his employment of undocumented migrant workers from Poland on the Trump Tower project, the real estate mogul was asked if he had ever used the name "John Barron."
"I believe on occasion I used that name," Trump replied (though he would note he wasn't specifically asked whether he used the name with the press).
The liberal super PAC American Bridge posted a partial transcript of Trump's testimony Friday afternoon.
But this isn't really some newly unearthed secret. Journalists took note of Trump's admission at the time — probably because some of them had been hoodwinked at one point or another over the previous decade. In one instance, Trump fooled the New York Times throughout coverage of a controversial development project in 1980.
Here's a sample of coverage from July 1990, when Trump acknowledged in court that he and "John Barron" (sometimes spelled "Baron") were one and the same.
At one point, Trump, who spends millions of dollars advertising his name, acknowledged that he has used an alias, "John Baron." ...
A former Trump executive has acknowledged in court papers that he had used the same alias in connection with the Trump Tower project. An attorney representing the Polish workers has charged that someone using the name "John Baron" had called and said Trump might sue him for $100 million.
Trump testified he used the name only "years later." Afterward, he told reporters, "Lots of people use pen names. Ernest Hemingway used one."
New York Times
In earlier testimony to show the Trump organization knew about the undocumented workers, John Szabo, an immigration lawyer who represented them, said someone who said his name was Mr. Baron telephoned on behalf of the Trump organization in 1980 and threatened to sue him if he did not drop the workers' claims of back payments.
Mr. Trump acknowledged yesterday that he and one of his executives have used the name John Baron in some of their business dealings. He did not explain. And he was not asked about Mr. Szabo's allegation.
Donald Trump, who likes to put his name on hotels, apartment buildings, planes and lots of other things, says he has sometimes discarded it for an alias. Would you believe John Baron?
During one line of inquiry, Trump acknowledged that he "on occasion" had used the pen name "John Barron," but U.S. District Judge Charles Stewart stopped Sloan from asking more questions on the subject.
Being outed as "John Barron" in 1990 could explain why Trump went as "John Miller" in the 1991 interview recorded by a People magazine reporter. On the tape, "Miller" can be heard telling writer Sue Carswell, "I'm sort of new here." Perhaps what he meant was that Trump's original cover had recently been blown; he needed a new alter ego.
Over the course of the presidential race, several journalists — including this one — have already revisited Trump's admitted use of an assumed name. It's well-established that this is a thing he did.
So why deny it on Friday? Who knows. Maybe a campaign spokesman can explain it to us.