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Familiar talk on women, from an unfamiliar Trump

Published Aug. 19, 2015

The outspoken scion of New York real estate developer Fred C. Trump stood on stage in Washington one day in 1992 and told a mostly female crowd of law enforcement agents to lighten up when it came to sexual harassment.

"Professional hypochondriacs," the speaker said, were making it hard for "men to be themselves" and were turning "every sexy joke of long ago, every flirtation," into "sexual harassment," thus ruining "any kind of playfulness and banter. Where has the laughter gone?" As for boorish behavior, the best way to disarm it was with "humor and gentle sarcasm," or better yet, that "potent weapon" of "feminine exterior and a will of steel."

The aversion to political correctness and the dispensing of unorthodox advice were straight from the playbook of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate who has made a business, and now the beginnings of a political career, out of over-the-top oratory. But these particular Trumpisms came instead from his older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry.

A senior judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan and promoted by President Bill Clinton, Barry, 78, would perhaps be the ideal person to argue in her brother's defense as he faces familiar accusations of misogyny, if she would speak publicly.

Instead, Donald Trump spoke for her, saying he had sought Barry's counsel after Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked him, in a widely watched debate, about his past remarks on women ("You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs' and 'disgusting animals' "). He was widely criticized for insinuating the next day that Kelly had been menstruating at the time. Trump denied that he had meant that.

His sister, he said in an interview, was supportive.

"She called me to say she's very proud," Trump said. "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.' "

He added that Barry had a view of gender equality not unlike his own. "My sister has a very unique view on this, and — not so unique," he said. "She feels that women are very smart and can be very tough and can be at least equal to men, and that women can fight very hard."

Barry — whose husband, John J. Barry, was a politically connected New Jersey lawyer who counted Trump as one of his clients — now lives in a Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan overlooking Central Park. She declined to comment for this article.

"I have a sister who just doesn't want to talk to reporters. Can you believe it?" Trump said, explaining that he had called his sister and suggested that she speak with an inquiring reporter. "I said: 'Maybe they mixed us at birth. Maybe one of us got mixed up a little bit. Who knows.' "

People close to Barry say she is decidedly not the mixed-up one in the family.

Although she did not start law school until after her son was in sixth grade, Barry has had a four-decade career as a prosecutor and federal judge, achieving a measure of celebrity independent of her brother. ("This is not the Trump Princess," the Chicago Sun-Times wrote in 1989.) Some friends say they did not even know she was part of the famous family.

As an appellate judge for the 3rd Circuit — with chambers in Newark and jurisdiction over Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the U.S. Virgin Islands — she has forcefully rebuked prosecutors and defense lawyers, but also trial judges she considered inept. And in 2000, still new to the appeals court, she wrote a 40-page unanimous decision calling a New Jersey law banning late-term abortions "unconstitutionally and incurably vague" and saying that it put an "undue burden" on women's constitutionally protected right to the procedure.

In 1982, when she was the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, she married John Barry. The next year, the Reagan administration reached out to Thomas Kean, New Jersey's Republican governor, seeking his recommendation for a U.S. District Court judgeship in the state.

"They wanted a woman, and they asked me if I had a good woman," Kean said. He surveyed a sounding board of former New Jersey Supreme Court justices and legal counselors, and, he recalled, "every one of them recommended the same name, Maryanne Barry."

On all of the documents Barry prepared for him, Kean said, she appeared as Maryanne Barry. Only as she was about to be appointed did he find out that she was a sister of Donald Trump, who, Kean said, "never made a call recommending his sister."

But that did not mean Trump kept entirely clear of the appointment process.

According to a person involved in the effort to appoint Barry, who discussed the clandestine strategy on the condition of anonymity, Trump had his lawyer, Roy M. Cohn, a politically connected former counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, lobby Edwin Meese III, then a senior White House aide, to put his sister on the bench.

"I'm no different than any other brother that loves his sister," Trump said when asked about Cohn's pressure on the Reagan administration. "My sister got the appointment totally on her own merit."

Barry herself has given her brother some of the credit for her appointment. "There's no question Donald helped me get on the bench," she was quoted as saying in Gwenda Blair's The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire. "I was good, but not that good."

Newspapers noted at the time that her brother was trying to break into the casino business in Atlantic City and raised the possibility of a conflict of interest.

"We never had a conflict," Trump said in the interview. "She would recuse herself. I'd ask her not to, of course, but she would recuse herself."

Known for chain-smoking and driving a Jaguar, Barry also took pride in her after-work homemaking. "I do the laundry, I do the shopping, I do the dishes," she told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1989.

In 2004, seven years before Barry assumed senior status on the 3rd Circuit Court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court presented her with an award, named after O'Connor, that the Seton Hall University School of Law gives to women who excel in law and public service.

With her brother in attendance, Barry said, "I say to the women out there, remember how difficult it was for women like Justice O'Connor starting out." She added, "Even though she graduated with top grades, she had to take a job as a legal secretary. Remember how far we have come."