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The Trump Secrets Hiding Inside Deutsche Bank

For nearly two decades, Deutsche Bank was the only mainstream financial institution consistently willing to do business with Donald Trump, who had a long record of defaulting on loans.

New York Times

Updated:August 29, 2019, 12:15 PM IST
The Trump Secrets Hiding Inside Deutsche Bank
File photo of US President Donald Trump (AP Photo)

Deutsche Bank’s disclosure on Tuesday that it has tax returns related to President Donald Trump’s family or business set off a frenzy of speculation about what those materials might reveal.

But a trove of other data and documents that his longtime lender is sitting on might prove more revelatory to investigators digging into Trump’s finances. That includes records of how Trump made his money, whom he has partnered with, the terms of his extensive borrowings and what transactions he has engaged in with Russians or other foreign nationals.

For nearly two decades, Deutsche Bank was the only mainstream financial institution consistently willing to do business with Trump, who had a long record of defaulting on loans. The bank over the years collected reams of his personal and corporate information.

Two congressional committees have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for a vast array of records related to Trump — including any tax returns since 2010. The investigators are hoping the materials will shed light not only on the president’s finances but also on any links he has had to foreign governments and whether he or his companies were involved in any illegal activity, such as money laundering for people overseas.

Here is what might be lurking in Deutsche Bank’s electronic vaults about the president, his family and his businesses.

Deutsche Bank has a lot of detailed information.

After the two House committees subpoenaed the bank, Trump sued to block it from complying. The case is pending with a federal appeals court.

In a court filing on Tuesday, Deutsche Bank confirmed that it has at least some of the tax returns that were demanded by the congressional committees. The filing didn’t disclose whose tax returns the bank possesses, or for what years, but current and former bank officials have told The New York Times that Deutsche Bank has the first several pages of Trump’s returns for multiple years.

Beyond that, congressional investigators are seeking dozens of other items (the list on the subpoena is six pages of single-spaced type). The request would cover most, if not all, of the extensive documentation Deutsche Bank has amassed about Trump’s businesses and personal finances. That includes information about his corporate balance sheet, his income from various assets and documents that map out how his businesses are set up.

While Deutsche Bank has been lending to Trump since 1998, the most detailed information would cover the period since 2011, when the company’s private-banking division struck up a relationship with the future president and his family.

Those documents can tell us a lot, but in pieces.

For a president who has kept his business affairs largely hidden from public view, the materials would together provide the most complete picture yet of Trump’s finances.

Trump broke with decades of precedent in refusing to release his federal tax returns, and for more than three years Democrats and journalists have been trying to get their hands on them.

The summary pages of the returns alone would not illuminate Trump’s income sources or his business partners. On the other hand, the tax-return summaries likely would show whether Trump has paid any taxes in recent years. (We already know that Trump for years may have avoided paying federal income taxes.)

But the tax documents, coupled with the other financial materials that the bank has, would likely fill in some of the gaps about the true extent of Trump’s fortune, which he has described as being in the billions of dollars.

In addition, materials that the congressional committees have subpoenaed — including anything relating to the due diligence the bank conducted before agreeing to lend him money — could contain new information about where and with whom Trump, his companies and his family have been earning money.

The files may shed light on any dealings with Russia by Trump or his family.

Since before Trump was elected president, critics of the president have speculated that Russian companies or individuals were secretly providing him with financial assistance, possibly via Deutsche Bank.

It isn’t hard to understand how such speculation got started. Deutsche Bank has a long history of operating in Russia, working with Kremlin-linked companies and laundering money for wealthy Russians.

Trump has a history in Russia. He once staged the Miss Universe pageant there, and he also sold a mansion to a Russian billionaire for $95 million. During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s company was looking to build a tower in Moscow — with the help of a Russian bank, VTB, that has long-running ties to Deutsche Bank.

And, of course, Russia interfered in the presidential election, seeking to tilt it in Trump’s favor.

So far, though, no evidence has emerged that shows Deutsche Bank’s extensive lending to Trump — a total of well over $2.5 billion worth since 1998 — was connected to the Russian government, companies or individuals.

Numerous current and former Deutsche Bank executives, including those with direct knowledge of the loans, have said the loans made since 2011 were financially attractive to the bank because Trump agreed to personally guarantee much of them — in other words, if he were to default, Deutsche Bank would be able to seize his personal assets, including tens of millions of dollars that he kept in accounts at the bank.

Still, Deutsche Bank’s internal files will most likely contain additional information about at least some dealings with Russia — although not necessarily involving Trump himself.

Congressional investigators subpoenaed any materials about suspicious activity that the bank detected in the accounts of Trump, his company or his family members, including Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. In 2016, Tammy McFadden, a former anti-money-laundering compliance officer at the bank, flagged transactions connected to Kushner as potentially suspicious.

Those transactions involved money flowing to Russian individuals, and Deutsche Bank’s files almost certainly include more information.

David Enrich c.2019 The New York Times Company

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