How Rich Is Donald Trump? America has been trying to find out for a long time

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By NY MAG

Donald Trump announced he is running for president today. He has spent years as a recreational user of highly addictive presidential speculation, but incorrectly reasoned that 2016 — which has already attracted more than 20 candidates — was the election year in which he had the best chance of winning.

As FiveThirtyEight pointed out today, Trump starts his presidential bid as the most hated primary candidate in recorded history, which is quite impressive and worth bragging about given how competitive the race is in that category.

One thing Trump won't be bragging about, according to him? The fact that he is oh-so ungodly rich.

Trump, whose name recognition could actually win him a spot on the 2016 debate stage, spent a significant portion of his announcement speech at Trump Tower today discussing his financials, holding an official looking document midair while he stabbed oratory at the crowd. He announced that his net worth was nearly $9 billion, something that the Washington Post had reported the day before.

Those familiar with the Donald Trump financial disclosure canon remained unconvinced and said they'd believe it when (or if) the Trump campaign filed more in-depth FEC financial disclosures in the upcoming months. The Washington Post noted in its report that "even the most aggressive auditors have found it challenging to assess Trump's balance sheet, in part because his assets and liabilities are intricately complex, entwined with public subsidies and opaque private partnerships." In other words, the exact size of his wealth is as unprovable as Trump's statement today that he "will be the greatest jobs president God ever created."

Presidential Candidates - Net Worth | InsideGov

Recent history is littered with others accusing Trump's financial statements of being as hyperbolic as his persona.

Back in 2005, New York Times reporter Timothy O'Brien wrote a book that said Trump's net worth was perhaps somewhere between $150 million and $250 million instead of a few billion, as Trump and the Forbes 400 reported. Today, Forbes reports Trump's net worth at a still very large $4.1 billion — far less than his own self-compiled figure. Trump gave the Forbes 400 some side-eye in his book, Trump: Surviving at the Top:

It always amazed me that people pay so much attention to Forbes magazine. Every year the Forbes 400 comes out, and people talk about it as if it were a rigorously researched compilation of America's wealthiest people, instead of what it really is: a sloppy, highly arbitrary estimate of certain people's net worth.

Trump was even less impressed with O'Brien's reporting. He sued the reporter for "egregiously false and malicious statements." The lawsuit was later dismissed. During the deposition, Trump was asked if he ever exaggerated the value of his properties. "I think everybody does," he said. "Who wouldn't?" He added, "I'm no different from a politician running for office. You don't want to say negative things." The deposition also featured this exchange.

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How Rich Is Donald Trump? America has been trying to find out for a long time
Donald Trump, left, and Miss Universe, Gabriela Isler, of Venezuela, talk during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, in Doral, Fla. Three of the last six Miss Universe titles have gone to Venezuelan contestants. This year's Miss Universe competition has a unique undertone: It will take place in South Florida, home to the largest number of Venezuelans in the U.S., the majority strongly against the current Venezuelan government. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Supporters chant as they wait for developer Donald Trump to announce that he will seek the Republican nominaiton for president, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Businessman Donald Trump speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Businessman Donald Trump speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - MAY 09: Buisnessman Donald Trump speaks during the Freedom Summit on May 9, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Trump joined potential presidential candidates in addressing the event hosted by conservative group Citizens United. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
NASHUA, NH - APRIL 18: Donald Trump speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit April 18, 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Summit brought together local and national Republicans and was attended by all the Republicans candidates as well as those eyeing a run for the nomination. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
CELEBRITY APPRENTICE -- Live Finale -- Pictured: Donald Trump -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 27: Chairman and president of the Trump Organization Donald Trump addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 27, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 27: Chairman and president of the Trump Organization Donald Trump addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 27, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
OXON HILL, MD - FEBRUARY 27: Businessman Donald Trump addresses a packed house during CPAC2015 (Conservative Political Action Conference) at the National Harbor Gaylord on Friday, February 27, 2015, in Oxon Hill, MD. The three-day conference features many of the people who are exploring the possibility of running to be the Republican Party nominee for president of the United States in the 2016 presidential election. (photo by jahi chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
DORAL, FL - FEBRUARY 20: Ivanka Trump, Jack Nicklaus, Donald Trump and Butch Buchholz at the unveiling of the Jack Nicklaus Villa at Trump Doral at Trump National Doral on February 20, 2015 in Doral, Florida. (Photo by Manny Hernandez/Getty Images)
CELEBRITY APPRENTICE -- Live Finale -- Pictured: (l-r) Donald Trump, Jr., Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
CELEBRITY APPRENTICE -- Live Finale -- Pictured: (l-r) Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Leeza Gibbons, Donald Trump, Jr. -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Donald Trump, president and chief executive officer of Trump Organization Inc., speaks during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest Saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, president and chief executive officer of Trump Organization Inc., speaks during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest Saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, president and chief executive officer of Trump Organization Inc., speaks during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest Saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 16: Donald Trump attends the NBCUniversal 2015 press tour at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa on January 16, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 16: Donald Trump attends the NBCUniversal 2015 press tour at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa on January 16, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23: (EDITOR'S NOTE: A special effects camera lens was used for this image.) Donald Trump attends the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C Groundbreaking Ceremony at Old Post Office on July 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 30: Donald Trump, chairman and president of the Trump Organization and the founder of Trump Entertainment Resorts, speaks during day two of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 30, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Members of the Republican Party are scheduled to speak at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31st. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, host of the television series "The Celebrity Apprentice," mugs for photographers at the NBC 2015 Winter TCA Press Tour at The Langham Huntington Hotel on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Donald Trump and Melania Trump attend the 20th Anniversary European School of Economics New York Ball benefit at Trump Tower on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, New York. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
Donald Trump takes part in a ground breaking ceremony for the Trump International Hotel on the site of the Old Post Office, in Washington, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo)
Donald Trump poses for photographs during a ground breaking ceremony for the Trump International Hotel on the site of the Old Post Office, on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo)
Donald Trump poses during a red carpet event before the Miss USA 2014 pageant in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday, June 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Donald Trump addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, La., Friday, May 30, 2014. Midterm election campaigns are in full swing, but several thousand Republicans gathering in Louisiana look toward a bigger prize. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
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Trump: My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try.

Lawyer: Let me just understand that a little. You said your net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?

Trump: Yes, even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day.

Philip Bump at the Fix talked to a financial expert about today's number of nearly $9 billion. The expert concluded that the number may have been highly influenced by Trump's feelings. "The first thing that pops, he's just throwing a number out."

The Atlantic wrote about Trump's self-calculus in 2013:

His methods of valuing assets are more creative than precise, although Trump has his own internal logic for them. For instance, in 2005, he was paid $400,000 for a speech at the Learning Annex, but bragged on Larry King Live that his pay was actually more than $1 million because, as he explained in his deposition, the speech was promoted in billboard, newspaper, radio, and TV ads around New York City, creating extra value for his brand.

"So when you say publicly you got paid more than $1 million, you're including in that sum the promotional expenses they pay?," Trump was asked during his deposition.

"Oh, absolutely, yes," he replied. "That has a great value. It has a great value to me."

Since then, Trump has devised a number of imprecise scales to quantify his wealth. He has been known to say, "My brand alone is worth $5 billion," to which Forbes responded, "Yes, the Donald is a billionaire. No, he's not worth what he says he is." On the financial documentation Trump released today, his brand is valued at more than $3 billion. Bloomberg News visited Trump's offices earlier this month, where he was again extolling the virtues of his brand.

"Ninety-nine million views," he said, knocking over an employee's computer monitor as he pointed to a YouTube video of rapper Mac Miller's platinum-certified track, "Donald Trump," playing on it. "Now that's a brand."

When Trump flirted with a presidential campaign before the 2012 race, he told Time magazine,

I look very much forward to showing my financials. Because they are huge. And I think that is a positive in terms of what I am doing. Far bigger than anyone knows. Far bigger than anyone would understand. And they are very impressive, very little debt, great amounts of cash, a great net worth. . . . Let me put it this way, The numbers will be far greater than any numbers you have ever heard about me. A pretty big statement to make. I am making that statement before the fact.

In the end, he never got in the race and never had to file financial paperwork — but Politico reported that his net worth was around $7 billion.

Trump has discussed his wealth in 2016 interviews. He told the Des Moines Register earlier this month, "I'm the most successful person ever to run for president. I mean, off the record, Ross Perot isn't successful like me. Romney was — I have a Gucci store that's worth more money than Romney." (According to the Register, this statement is factually accurate.)

If Trump stays in the race and files paperwork with the FEC (which is no guarantee), the world might finally know whether Donald Trump's estimation of his fortune exceeds Donald Trump's fortune.

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