Instead of tweeting his outrage , President Donald Trump might actually want to endorse a recent New York Times article providing new details of his financial relationship with Deutsche Bank.
The Times found that, beginning in 2004, the German lender gave Trump as much as $2 billion in loans for real-estate projects over at least a decade. Various business failures made Trump a risky bet, so most banks steered far clear of the developer at that point in his career. But Deutsche Bank saw Trump as a potentially marquee client who would generate lucrative fees, and help build its investment banking business.
Trump defaulted on some of the loans, but lender and borrower patched things up, and DB lent Trump additional funds. The then-real estate mogul allegedly exaggerated the value of his holdings to help get some of the loans approved. Once Trump won the presidential election in 2016, DB tried to keep its relationship with Trump quiet, lest it invite investigative scrutiny (which in fact it has).
If you’re waiting to hear what’s so scandalous about all of this, you’ll have to keep waiting, because there’s nothing salacious in the Times’s account. Real-estate assets can be hard to value, for instance, and Trump would hardly be the first borrower to put a rosy spin on his creditworthiness.
That’s why banks are supposed to assess the value of collateral on their own, and don’t just take a borrower’s word for it. If Deutsche Bank was overly generous to Trump, that’s the bank’s problem, not his.
A few details in the Times account even buttress Trump’s claims that his business is all legitimate, with no need to rely on illicit Russian money or other shady financing.
The Times, for instance, reported the German bankers “were impressed that Mr. Trump did not have much debt” — even though he had a history of defaults. That detail challenges the narrative of Trump as a reckless builder always desperate for other people’s money. And if Trump could get cash from Deutsche Bank almost at will, there’d be less need — arguably none at all — for him to seek funny money that could put him in a compromising position once he ran for office.
Many caveats apply. The Times almost certainly knows less than special counsel Robert Mueller and other prosecutors who are investigating all of this, but haven’t yet shown all their cards. They may still uncover Trump’s possible connections to suspicious funding sources. After all, Deutsche Bank itself has been fined for laundering ill-gotten Russian money . It’s possible that touches Trump, somehow.
Still, at least so far, Trump is surviving the onslaught of inquiries triggered by newly empowered Democrats, who took control of the House in last year’s midterm elections. A CNN poll released on Monday showed Trump’s approval rating rose to 42%, while 70% of respondents think the economy is in good shape.
While The Times story doesn’t cite Democratic sources, it’s plausible (and maybe probable) that at least some of the details in the story come from House investigations into Trump’s business dealings.
The House Financial Services Committee, now chaired by California Democrat Maxine Waters, has promised a thorough inquiry into Trump’s connection with the bank, and hired investigators who have probed DB in the past for other Congressional purposes. On February 27, ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen referenced DB when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee, and may have privately provided more leads since then.
Trump faces a multi-pronged attack from Democrats. The House Ways and Means Committee plans to request Trump’s tax returns, which Trump is almost certain to fight.
The House Judiciary Committee has requested reams of information relating to possible conflicts of interest and obstruction of justice from at least 81 people and organizations , including Trump’s two sons. And the Mueller investigation, likely to wrap up soon, could still reveal unexpected bombshells.
Democrats seem to realize, however, that the bar is higher than simply showing Trump got preferential treatment from a lender, or did business with some prominent Russians. A recent USA Today poll found that half of Americans think various investigations of Trump constitute a political “witch hunt,” as Trump keeps insisting. And 62% oppose impeachment, based on what is publicly known.
The public’s views could change if Mueller or other investigators produce convincing evidence that Trump committed crimes. But for now, Trump does not appear to be losing.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “ Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success .” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman