The Money Behind Trump’s Money

In Conflict of Interest, FOREIGN RELATIONS On
- Updated

The roughly $425 million that Offit helped arrange for Trump back in 1998 was the start of a very long, very complicated relationship between ­Deutsche Bank and the future president. Over the course of two decades, the bank lent him more than $2 billion — so much that by the time he was elected, ­Deutsche Bank was by far his biggest creditor. Against all odds, Trump paid back most of what he owed the bank. But the relationship cemented ­Deutsche Bank’s reputation as a reckless institution willing to do business with clients nobody else would touch. And it has made the company a magnet for prosecutors, regulators and lawmakers hoping to penetrate the president’s opaque financial affairs.

Last April, congressional Democrats subpoenaed ­Deutsche Bank for its records on Trump, his family members and his businesses. The Trump family sued to block the bank from complying; after two federal courts ruled against the Trumps, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, with oral arguments expected in the spring. State prosecutors, meanwhile, are investigating the bank’s ties with Trump, too. The F.B.I. has been conducting its own wide-­ranging investigation of ­Deutsche Bank, and people connected to the bank told me they have been interviewed by special agents about aspects of the Trump relationship.

If they ever become public, the bank’s Trump records could serve as a Rosetta Stone to decode the president’s finances. Executives told me that the bank has, or at one point had, portions of Trump’s personal federal income tax returns going back to around 2011. (Deutsche Bank lawyers told a federal court last year that the bank does not have those returns; it is unclear what happened to them. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) The bank has documents detailing the finances and operations of his businesses. And it has records about internal deliberations over whether and how to do business with Trump — a paper trail that most likely reflects some bank employees’ concerns about potentially suspicious transactions that they detected in the family’s accounts.

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