In 2013, months before Donald J. Trump approached Deutsche Bank in search of a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills, a mysterious new asset appeared on its financial account.
It was not a new hotel, office tower or golf resort. It was "brand value" – $ 4 billion, through Mr. Trump's account.
The episode of the Deutsche Bank, together with the amazing claim of Mr. Trump on freshly discovered wealth came out on Wednesday when his former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, testified before the House Oversight Committee. Mr. Cohen provided financial statements for three years. "I believe these numbers are inflated," he remarked dry.
Without saying so, Mr. Cohen followed the lifelong practice of making myths that Mr. Trump eventually drove to the White House – magically inflating the value of his business empire to create and create the Donald J. Trump brand, homemade. to cherish. billionaire.
That myth formation began when Mr. Trump, as a young man, mistakenly claimed to be the owner of the real estate realm that is still owned by his father, the legendary builder Fred C. Trump. It went on in the flashy opening series of "The Apprentice" and on the campaign path in 2015.
The first public report of Mr. Trump's financial exaggerations came in 1976, when Mr. Trump, just a few years after graduating, suggested to a Times reporter that he already had more than $ 200 million & # 39; worth it.
To support this fantastic claim, Mr. Trump claimed several buildings and projects in the New York City area. In reality, his father was the owner of everything.
Years later, a public complaint showed that his 1976 taxable income was only $ 24,594.
In the 1980s, instead of appropriating the wealth of his father, he was quick to reduce his father's considerable achievements. He consistently cast Fred Trump as a behind the scenes cheerleader who had a modest collection of outer city apartments. Mr. Trump never mentioned the considerable wealth of his father, or the financial support that made his gilded life possible. He claimed to have only received a loan of $ 1 million from his father – and to have repaid it with interest.
"He was a decent man and a smart boy and I learned a lot from my father, as far as support is concerned, it was the number 1 that I got from my father", he told the host David Letterman of the late evening in 1987, strange enough to refer to his father, who only died in 1999 in the past tense.
Last year, a New York Times survey found that Mr. Trump, in contrast to his claims about a $ 1 million loan, had received from his parents the equivalent of at least $ 413 million today. That figure was increased by legally dubious tax regimes, some of which depended on reverse manipulation – assets for a lower balance when the tax official called. A lawyer from Mr. Trump said that all applicable laws had been followed.
For years, Mr. Trump has provided unchecked annual accounts as proof of his wealth, both to reporters and to banks when looking for loans. (The deal deal has never been fulfilled.) In a 2007 statement, he said the values could even fluctuate based on his & # 39; feelings & # 39; and real estate appraisals were compared with political spin.
"I am no different than a politician who goes to the office," he said. "You always want to bring out the best foot."
The documents that Mr. Cohen presented to the Congress show dollar amounts that bounce more than the eclectic signature of Mr. Trump. For example, in the 2013 statement, the cash and tradable securities category more than doubled to $ 346 million compared to the previous year, even when a note claimed that Mr Trump had paid off a number of commitments. That year, his claimed net worth went up to $ 8.66 billion, up from $ 5 billion a year earlier.
Mr. Cohen said that he often presented these financial statements to journalists at publications such as Forbes to Trump to get lists of the richest Americans.
Last year, Jonathan Greenberg, a former reporter for Forbes, told The Washington Post that in the 1980s, long before Mr. Cohen came into the picture, Mr. Trump had called him as John Barron, an alleged spokesman for Donald Trump, to to get yourself on the list of the richest Americans magazine.
But behind the scenes, Mr. Trump, when it was time to pay taxes, was instrumental in lowering the value of his family's possessions.
In 1995, Donald Trump and his three siblings demanded confidential tax documents obtained by The Times that their father's property, including 25 apartment complexes, was worth only $ 41.4 million. They claimed that two rental buildings at Trump Village, in Coney Island, were $ 5.9 million negative. The maneuver saved the family from paying millions of dollars in gifts and inheritance taxes. The real value of these objects was revealed in 2004, when banks valued them at almost $ 900 million.
Tax experts told The Times that such maneuvers were legally questionable.
Deputy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat, asked Mr. Cohen about the tax regulations as described in the Times study at the Wednesday hearing. Mr. Cohen replied that these actions took place before he arrived at the Trump organization.
Republican members of the Oversight and Reform Committee of the House, along with the White House, repeatedly tried to discredit Mr. Cohen on Wednesday, pointing out his plea guilty of financial crimes and lying to Congress.
The true richness and complications of Mr. Trump would be much better understood if he had followed the decades-old tradition of presidential candidates to release their tax returns.
Mr. Cohen was asked to address the truthfulness of Mr. Trump's claim that he could not release the return because he was under control. Mr. Cohen said the opposite was true: Mr. Trump feared that releasing his profits would lead to an audit and possible fines.
"What he did not want was that he had a whole group of think tanks who are tax experts who go through his tax return and start cutting it up and then go to an audit," said Mr. Cohen.