Maryanne Trump Barry, a former federal judge who was an older sister of Donald J. Trump and served as both his protector and critic throughout their lives, has died. She was 86.
She died at her home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, according to three people familiar with the matter. Two of them said police were called to the home early Monday morning. None of the people gave a reason, and all spoke on condition of anonymity. A spokesman for Mr. Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
Judge Barry had been on the federal bench in New Jersey, a position that Mr. Trump’s fixer, attorney Roy M. Cohn, was credited with helping her achieve during President Ronald Reagan’s tenure in the 1980s. She retired in 2019 after she became the focus of a judicial investigation stemming from an investigation by The New York Times into the Trump family’s tax practices.
Mr. Trump seemed to listen to few people’s words as much as he did his oldest sister’s, according to insiders. But their relationship suffered a significant rift in the final year of his presidency when their niece Mary L. Trump, who was promoting a memoir about their family, released recordings of her aunt speaking harshly about the president.
A Republican, Judge Barry was appointed to the District Court of New Jersey by President Reagan in 1983. President Bill Clinton elevated her to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1993. She was the widow of John J. Barry, a veteran New Jersey trial and appellate attorney .
She stepped down from the bench after The Times found that the Trumps had engaged in questionable tax schemes during the 1990s to boost the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of these schemes, The Times found; she was also able to influence her family’s actions.
At that time, she had been listed as an inactive senior judge for two years. Her retirement called into question the judicial inquiry, as retired judges are not subject to judicial conduct rules.
Judge Barry’s scathing remarks about her brother were made in a series of audio recordings secretly recorded by Mary Trump in 2018 and 2019 while Mrs Trump was working on the book “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man ” (2020). The audio tapes made available to The Washington Post contained criticism that went beyond other caustic comments contained in Mrs Trump’s book.
“His damn tweet and the lie – oh, my God,” Judge Barry said in one of the recordings. “I speak too freely, but you know. Changing stories. The lack of preparation. The lying.”
At another point, she said: “All he wants to do is appeal to his base. He has no principles. None.” She added: “It’s the fakeness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel.” “You can’t trust him,” she said.
In 2020, Mary Trump filed a lawsuit accusing the president and his siblings of defrauding her of her inheritance. She argued that for the Trumps, “fraud wasn’t just the family business — it was a way of life.”
The White House responded that Mrs. Trump’s claims were self-serving.
Mr. Trump, 77, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination despite facing dozens of criminal charges in four cases, has suffered a series of personal losses in the past several years.
His younger brother, Robert, died in 2020, and the president held a funeral for him at the White House. His first wife, Ivana Trump, died last year. Another brother, Fred Jr., died in 1981 at age 43. Judge Barry was the oldest of the Trump siblings.
A granddaughter of German immigrants, Maryanne Elizabeth Trump was born on April 5, 1937, in New York City to Fred and Mary (McLeod) Trump. Her father, the real estate mogul and source of the family’s wealth, developed thousands of apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. Her mother was a Scottish immigrant.
The family lived in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens. Judge Barry once recalled: “The first time I realized my father was successful was when I was 15 and a friend said to me, ‘Your father is rich’. We were privileged, but I didn’t know it.”
She attended the private Kew-Forest School in Queens and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 1958. She earned a master’s degree in public law and government from Columbia University in 1962.
After 13 years as a homemaker, she enrolled in law school at Hofstra University on Long Island, where she was editor of its law review. She graduated in 1974 and went to work for the government, becoming an assistant federal prosecutor in New Jersey. She was First Assistant United States Attorney from 1981 to 1983, placing her among the highest-ranking women in a federal prosecutor’s office at the time.
Her marriage to David Desmond in 1960 ended in divorce in 1980. She married Mr. Barry in 1982. He died in 2000.
In addition to her brother, her immediate survivors include a younger sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, and a son from her first marriage, David William Desmond.
She was considered a tough judge. Judge Barry rejected a plea deal that would have freed two detectives accused of protecting a drug dealer; they were convicted and sentenced. She ruled in favor of a Gambian refugee and criticized the judge who had questioned his application for asylum. The judge was later removed.
In 2000, Judge Barry wrote the majority opinion in an appeals court decision striking down a New Jersey ban on late-term abortions, saying it was vaguely worded and placed an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to privacy in medical decision-making.
As tough as she was on the bench, Judge Barry suggested that women lighten up a bit on the issue of sexual harassment.
“I’m second to none in condemning the sexual harassment of women,” she told the Interagency Committee on Women in Law Enforcement in 1992. “But what’s happening is that every long-ago sexy joke, every flirt, is recalled by some women and revised and re-evaluated as sexual harassment. Many of these accusations are, in anyone’s book, frivolous.”
In 2004, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the Supreme Court presented Justice Barry with an award given by Seton Hall University School of Law to women who excel in law and public service.
Accepting the award, which was named in honor of Justice O’Connor, Justice Barry said: “I say to the women out there, remember how difficult it was for women like Justice O’Connor to start. Although she graduated with top marks, she had to she take a job as a legal secretary. Remember how far we’ve come.”
William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.