‘This was the cover-up’: Mary Trump’s lawyers defend fraud lawsuit against Donald Trump and aunt at court hearing

Ms Trump is suing her uncle, former president Donald Trump, and her aunt, ex-federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry for allegedly defrauding her out of millions of dollars

Andrew Feinberg
Wednesday 12 January 2022 13:55 GMT
The president with Maryanne Trump Barry in Abderdeen, Scotland, 2008
The president with Maryanne Trump Barry in Abderdeen, Scotland, 2008 (Reuters)

A New York state judge appeared sceptical of arguments made by lawyers for Donald Trump and his sister Maryanne Trump Barry in a bid to dismiss their niece Mary Trump’s lawsuit seeking damages and compensation for allegedly defrauding her out of millions of dollars in real estate interests from her late grandfather’s estate.

Ms Trump, a clinical psychologist by training, filed the lawsuit in September 2020, a few months after her bestselling book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man outed her as the primary source for a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times report detailing how Mr Trump, Ms Barry, and their late brother Robert Trump allegedly worked with their grandfather Fred Trump Sr to siphon off funds from rental properties, which Ms Trump would have inherited interests in through her late father, Fred Trump Jr.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants conspired to implement “a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited” in the years between 1981, when her father died from a heart attack related to alcoholism, and Fred Trump Sr’s death in 1999.

It further alleges that the Trump siblings “presented her with a stack of fraudulent valuations and a so-called settlement agreement” and browbeat her into signing away her interests based on fraud that remained undiscovered until the Times expose in 2018.

Maryanne Trump Barry Trump, who in 2017 retired from her position as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in December 2020, which her brother and the executor for the estate of Robert Trump (who died in August of that year) joined in January of 2021.

The defendants argued that the suit should be dismissed because Mary Trump’s claims are barred by New York’s statute of limitations on her claims, and because she waived her right to sue them by signing releases as part of a settlement agreement to end litigation over her grandfather’s will.

Clinical psychologist and author Mary Trump during an appearance on ABC News’ 20/20
Clinical psychologist and author Mary Trump during an appearance on ABC News’ 20/20 (ABC News)

In arguments before the New York Supreme Court, Justice Robert Reed, Ms Barry’s attorney Gary Friedman claimed that Ms Trump was a “sophisticated actor” when she signed the releases after being represented by counsel who was “competent” at the time.

Justice Reed didn’t appear to buy the argument.

Noting Ms Trump’s educational background, he said he had “no doubt” that she would be “sophisticated in the area of psychology” but expressed doubt that her alleged sophistication extended to “real estate management” matters.

When Mr Friedman argued that Ms Trump admitted that she knew about the alleged fraud in a passage of her book which recalls how she sensed that she was being lied to during settlement talks, the jurist replied: “Lying doesn’t equate to fraud”.

A lawyer for the former president, James Kiley, said the Times’ prize-winning reporting could not have been what tipped her off to fraud because “nothing” within the report “was a revelation”, but he further argued that the report showed Ms Trump had not exercised proper due diligence by not examining the documents herself.

In response, Ms Trump’s attorney John Quinn told the judge that the Times investigation was far more complex than that because it revealed how the Trump siblings used a corporation they called All County Building Supply and Maintenance to siphon funds from what Ms Trump would have inherited.

“This was the cover-up, and by definition, the cover-up does not give notice of the fraud that it’s covering up,” he said.

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