Trump's long and winding history with Deutsche Bank could now be at the center of Robert Mueller's investigation


Donald Trump
Donald Trump.
Kevin
Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images


  • President Donald Trump’s ties to Deutsche Bank are
    under the microscope.
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly seeking
    information on Trump’s and his family’s Deutsche Bank
    accounts.
  • Trump holds roughly $300 million in debt to the
    bank.

President Donald Trump’s longtime relationship with Deutsche Bank
is receiving renewed attention after reports that US
investigators asked the bank for information on accounts held by
the president, his family, and associates.

Trump’s relationship with the massive German bank dates back
roughly 20 years and has taken many twists and turns. Now, that
relationship could find itself at the center of special counsel
Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the
2016 presidential election.

The president’s association with the German bank was born in the
late 1990s, when major Wall Street firms would no longer loan
Trump money following a series of disastrous ventures such as the
Trump Shuttle and Trump’s Atlantic City casinos.

The relationship began in 1998, when a group of real-estate
bankers gave Trump a $125 million loan for renovations to his 40
Wall Street property. Deutsche Bank’s real estate business had
only been in operation for a year at that point, so the group,
led by Mike Offit, was willing to take a risk on Trump, who was
essentially blacklisted by the major Wall Street firms, Bloomberg reported.

“I had one way to succeed — that was to make this thing big and
profitable,” Offit told Bloomberg. “If I was super conservative
and wasn’t willing to do some unusual stuff, how was I going to
compete?”

Trump quickly became Offit’s best client, he said. Offit’s team
soon financed the construction of Trump World Tower in New York
City near the United Nations and backed his failed bid at
redeveloping the site of the New York Coliseum, Bloomberg wrote.
Offit would leave Deutsche Bank in 1999, but Trump’s relationship
with the bank would only continue to grow.

The bank provided Trump with a $640 million construction loan in
2005 to assist him in building the Trump International Hotel and
Tower in Chicago. But the project neared completion right as the
financial crisis hit.

That led to Trump suing a group of lenders led by Deutsche Bank
for $3 billion, rather than repay part of the loan when its due
date came. Trump used what was an unusual defense, known as
“force majeure,” which allows for an extension to pay back a loan
under extraordinary circumstances. Trump claimed the financial
crisis was the equivalent of a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami”
and similar to an earthquake.

Deutsche Bank countersued Trump, and the two parties later
settled. They continued doing business together after the
settlement. Trump’s business was good for the bank and helped
make it money, The New York Times
reported
 in July.

The bank also lends to Trump’s family, including most prominently
his son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank came under the microscope
once he won the presidential election

Prior to Trump’s election as president last fall, his financial
disclosures showed he held roughly $360 million in debt to the
bank, with about $125 million in two mortgages for one of the
president’s major Florida golf courses, Trump National Doral,
The Washington Post reported.

Trump’s debt to Deutsche Bank also included loans for Trump’s
Chicago building and the Trump International Hotel in Washington,
DC. 

That became a major issue prior to Trump’s taking office as
ethicists and others demanded that he sever himself from his
businesses and financial entanglements. The bank sought to
restructure Trump’s debt, but as Bloomberg reported,
that effort stalled in late March.


deutsche bankREUTERS/Kai
Pfaffenbach

At the same time, Deutsche Bank was under investigation by the
Justice Department for both its role in a “mirror trading” scheme with
Russian oligarchs that allowed them to launder cash out of Russia
in the face of US sanctions, and for its mortgage practices amid
the financial crisis, which regulators sought a $14
billion fine for. Deutsche Bank ended up settling with the government
on the mortgage front for $7.2 billion just days before Trump
took office in January.

In July, The Times reported that US
banking regulators were reviewing the hundreds of millions of
dollars in loans Deutsche Bank made to Trump over the past two
decades. It was in the same story that The Times reported that
the bank was in contact with federal investigators related to the
special counsel’s probe. Sources said the bank was expecting it
would have to turn over information on Trump’s accounts to
Mueller. 

Multiple publications reported this week that Mueller’s team had
subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for that information, though some of the
reports were later amended to say that investigators had asked
the bank for data on Trump associate’s accounts.

Jay Sekulow, a member of the president’s legal team, denied that
any subpoena was issued. A US official told Reuters
that at the heart of the inquiry was whether the bank sold part
of Trump’s debt to the Russian bank VEB or any other Russian
banks under sanctions. During the transition period last
December, Kushner met with the hed of VEB, Sergei Gorkov, in New
York City.

During a July interview with The
Times
, Trump suggested that Mueller would be crossing a “red
line” by digging into his finances, moving outside the scope of
what he is tasked with investigating.

“Look, this is about Russia,” he said. “So I think if he wants to
go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably
successful company.”

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