While Donald Trump's children have featured largely in his presidency—and prior to that, in his campaign—other relatives, like his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, have remained largely out of the public eye.
As of late, though, that hasn't been the case. With the recent publication of her niece Mary L. Trump's tell-all about the President and the Trump family, Too Much and Never Enough, Maryanne has found herself in news reports about the book's revelations.
And previously, in the spring of 2019, her name again appeared in headlines, after she retired from her post as a federal judge. At the age of 82, stepping back wouldn't seem strange—but some have raised flags about the circumstances surrounding her departure. A landmark New York Times investigation in the fall of 2018 revealed that Barry, along with other Trump family members, had "engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s." On February 1, 2019, Barry received notice that a judicial conduct council was reviewing related complaints against her. A week and a half later, she retired.
Naturally, these aren't the only times her name has come up alongside her more famous brother's. Here, a short history of Barry's life, and how it's intersected with President Trump's.
She started pursuing her legal career later in life.
Born in 1937, Barry is the oldest of the five Trump siblings, and grew up in Queens's Jamaica Estates neighborhood with the rest of her family. She went to Mount Holyoke College for undergrad, and earned her masters from Columbia in 1962.
She put her career on pause to raise her only son, David Desmond, with her husband, lawyer John J. Barry. After her son entered sixth grade, she enrolled at Hofstra University's law school. (For his part, Desmond would become a clinical psychologist, and a humorist, writing a column for the Palm Beach Daily News that poked light fun at wealthy locals, and two books in the same vein.)
She once told New York magazine that she consciously chose to stay out of the family business, so as not to become rivals with Donald Trump. "I knew better even as a child than to even attempt to compete with Donald," she said. "I wouldn't have been able to win. He was building models when he was very young. Huge buildings."
She went on to be nominated for judicial posts by presidents of both parties.
According to her page on the Federal Judicial Center's website, she began working her way up as an attorney in the District of New Jersey soon after she graduated. In 1983, Barry was nominated by Ronald Reagan to the U.S. District Court.
Some—including Barry herself—have alleged that Donald Trump helped her secure the nomination. According to the New York Times, Trump asked his lawyer Roy Cohn to lobby a White House aide on Barry's behalf. "There’s no question Donald helped me get on the bench," Barry reportedly reveals in The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire. "I was good, but not that good."
New Jersey's Republican governor at the time, Thomas Kean, told the NYT that he had separately recommended Barry, without knowing that she had any relation to Donald Trump.
In 1999, President Clinton nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals. She would serve there until just prior to her brother's inauguration, when she became a "senior inactive judge," and stopped hearing cases. She retired on February 11, 2019.
It's been reported that she helped her brother, too.
While Barry was still working in the U.S. Attorney's office, WNYC reports that a Queens lawyer had been rebuffed after airing his concerns about a Trump-related matter. The lawyer, John Szabo, was concerned about the working conditions of 200 illegal immigrants, who were demolishing a building to create space for Trump Tower. "The Assistant US Attorney said, 'Don't say the name Trump in here,'" Szabo alleged. "If you want to talk about Trump, let's go outside and talk."
Her husband was involved in Trump's company, as well as some Trump family affairs.
While she was hearing cases in the New Jersey court, Barry's husband John was working as a lawyer for her brother Donald—specifically focusing on his New Jersey casinos, per WNYC. John Barry's law firm, Kimmelman, Wolff and Samson, reportedly had close ties to the Christie administration, and particularly to the state's gambling industry.
The New York Times has reported that in the mid-'90s John Barry helped broker a loan from Trump's siblings to Donald, to save his business. "We would have literally closed down," a former Trump Organization employee told the NYT. "The family saved him."
John Barry died in 2000.
As a judge, her rulings are widely considered moderate—although she is outspoken on one particular issue.
Barry is often considered a conservative-leaning moderate. Citing a law review study that ranked judges's ideological leanings, the Washington Post noted that she appears to be near the middle of the spectrum.
In fact, she's been vilified by the right—notably condemned as a "radical pro-abortion extremist" by Senator Ted Cruz. In the case he was referring to, she actually took a moderate stance, striking down a law that banned "partial birth abortion," a term Barry deemed unfair as it was a political term, not a medical one, and therefore didn't define "with any certainty" what was prohibited, per the Washington Post. The law also didn't have an exception for the health of the mother.
The views Barry airs most often are somewhat contradictory. In a 2011 commencement speech at Fairfield University, she seemed to advocate for gender equality, noting that it had been hard for her to excel in a male-dominated field. "My first job out of law school was as one of two women assistant US attorneys in an office of 63 US attorneys, and the first woman to do criminal work appearing only before male judges," she said. "Scared? Every day of my life."
However, she's been vocal in her opposition to what she sees as an overcorrection against sexual harassment in the workplace. In 1992, Barry delivered a speech to 900 Federal law-enforcement staffers, saying, a few "professional hypochondriacs" were ruining workplace relationships between genders. "What is happening is that every sexy joke of long ago, every flirtation, is being recalled by some women and revised and re-evaluated as sexual harassment," she said, per the New York Times. "Many of these accusations are, in anybody's book, frivolous."
After Donald Trump's infamous criticism of Megyn Kelly, in which he said she had "blood coming out of her wherever," Barry allegedly took his side. Trump told a reporter that she had called him with a message of support. "She called me to say she’s very proud," he said, according to the New York Times. “She said, ‘Just be yourself.’ Of course, I don’t know if that’s good advice, but she said, ‘Just be yourself and you do well, really well.’ ”
Barry is also a proud homemaker, and appears to be an advocate for somewhat traditional gender roles in the home. "I like a little chivalry, I like to receive flowers, I like taking care of a son and a husband," she said, per the New York Times. "And in my judgment those who recoil from these things don't know what they're missing."
Recently, she's found herself in the news once again, thanks to revelations in Mary Trump's book.
Donald and Maryanne's niece Mary, the daughter of their late brother Fred Jr., recently released a tell-all about the Trump family titled Too Much and Never Enough—despite Robert Trump filing a lawsuit in an attempt to block its publication.
Maryanne, of course, appears in the book. According to the New York Times, Mary wrote that Maryanne called Donald Trump a "clown" during the 2016 election, and strongly disapproved of how Donald spoke about Fred Jr. to the press. "'He’s using your father’s memory for political purposes,' Maryanne said, 'and that’s a sin, especially since Freddy should have been the star of the family,'" Mary reportedly wrote.
Mary told the Washington Post that the conversations she recalls in Too Much and Never Enough took place before she planned to write a book. Mary said she hasn't spoken to Maryanne since its publication, adding that she wouldn't be surprised "if she never contacted me, and I think that’s fair. I understand why she would not want to."
Maryanne and Mary previously clashed in 1999 following Fred Trump Sr.'s death, when Mary learned that she and her brother Fred III had been largely cut out of their grandfather's will. Mary and Fred III filed a lawsuit, alleging that Donald had pressured Fred Sr. to change his will while he was suffering from dementia. In retaliation, siblings Donald, Maryanne, and Robert dropped Mary and Fred III from the family health insurance plan, despite the fact that Fred III had recently had a son with medical issues that required expensive care. In court documents, Maryanne called Mary and Fred III "absentee grandchildren," per a New York Daily News report from the time.
The dispute was eventually settled confidentially, and Mary signed an NDA at the time—the same NDA that Robert cited in his suit to block publication of Mary's book.
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