Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has essentially concluded, President Donald Trump still has other inquiries to worry about. A new one is proceeding this week — House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has revealed that Deutsche Bank has begun handing over documents detailing their decades of history with Trump.
Her committee is investigating possible financial fraud in the president’s backstory, including inflating his assets to get loans from the bank. Trump has suggested at times that crossing into his personal finances would be an improper “red line” for investigators, but that’s not exactly stopping Democrats. During his recent public testimony before Congress, former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen reiterated allegations that the president is guilty of financial fraud, including — besides the allegedly doctored loan applications — tax and insurance fraud. Routinely, Cohen said, the eventual president would inflate or deflate the value of his assets in order to make the outcome of a particular transaction more in his favor.
That’s criminal behavior, and it doesn’t even touch on the question of the Trump team’s ties to Russia, which Mueller has seemed to conclude included no coordination or conspiracy with Kremlin agents seeking to tilt U.S. elections, although his report remains classified at present. All we’ve got is a summary letter from Attorney General William Barr.
Still, Democrats are also concerned about possible ties to Russian money laundering at Deutsche Bank roping in the Trump team. The U.S. Justice Department fined the bank over half a billion dollars just in 2017 for their part in a money laundering scheme handling Russian money, and late last year, German authorities raided the bank’s home base in Frankfurt. Allegedly, a number of employees helped set up shell companies revealed by the so-called Panama Papers that had been meant, quite simply, to hide money.
A considerable deal of money flowing into the Trump Organization throughout recent decades came from Deutsche Bank. The institution was at one point one of the few left that would lend to the eventual president in light of his repeated financial troubles, although even they weren’t immune to those troubles, since after his election they reportedly considered restructuring his loans to avoid having to collect on a sitting president.
The Trump Organization has also benefited significantly from Russian investment.
As Foreign Policy explains it:
‘By the time he ran for president, Trump had been enmeshed in this mysterious overseas flow of capital—which various investigators believe could have included money launderers from Russia and former Soviet republics who bought up dozens of his condos.’
Trump also benefited majorly from the help of Russian-born business partner Felix Sater and the Bayrock Group, which together worked to get the eventual president’s brand out — including via a planned Moscow development that never materialized. Former Bayrock-affiliated developer Jody Kriss said he “eventually left Bayrock because he became convinced that the firm was a front for money laundering.” Just in recent days, a Kazakh bank alleged that Sater helped launder hundreds of millions of dollars of their money.
In other words, Waters aiming for Trump records from Deutsche Bank fits into a much broader question of what financial fraud the president has a hand in. She has been going after information since at least 2017, but only now that the Democrats are in the majority has the bank agreed to comply.
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