President Trump owes Deutsche Bank over $300 million for real estate deals made prior to becoming president, and now Robert Mueller wants to take a closer look at Trump’s accounts with the international megabank. Trump told the New York Times in July that the special counsel looking into his and his family’s finances would cross a red line, so we have officially entered uncharted territory in this investigation. Per Bloomberg:
Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.
Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank stretches back some two decades and the roughly $300 million he owed to the bank represented nearly half of his outstanding debt, according to a July 2016 analysis by Bloomberg. That figure includes a $170-million loan Trump took out to finish a hotel in Washington. He also has two mortgages against his Trump National Doral Miami resort and a loan against his tower in Chicago.
Congressional Democrats had been calling on the bank to provide more information on Trump’s $300 million in debt, but they were rebuffed—as Deutsche Bank said that sharing client data would be illegal unless they received a formal request to do so. Well, now they reportedly did (and executives at Deutsche Bank had previously said they expected this). This was initially portrayed as a partisan witch hunt into Trump’s finances, but the Republican former FBI director appointed by George W. Bush may have laid that to rest with this reported subpoena.
One month before we elected Donald Trump as our 45th president, Jared Kushner secured a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank. There is no evidence in this Bloomberg report that Kushner’s loan is under scrutiny, but Jared Kushner certainly is—and when The Washington Post unearthed that fact back in June, the White House told them that Kushner “will recuse from any particular matter involving specific parties in which Deutsche Bank is a party.” If Mueller obtained a subpoena “several weeks ago” on Trump’s finances, that would have likely come after WaPo published their report on Kushner.
This subpoena could simply be Mueller doing his due diligence, but it does seem to suggest that obstruction of justice is not the only focus of the special counsel. The Department of Justice is investigating Deutsche Bank’s possible role in a $10 billion Russian money laundering scheme (and the bank has already paid out over $670 million in civil penalties to US and UK regulators this year relating to Russian trades), and it looks like Mueller is digging into any potential connections between that investigation and his inquiry into the Trump camp.
Be cautious drawing any firm conclusions from this report. It looks really significant on the surface—since this is seemingly the first instance of Mueller’s investigation directly targeting Trump for a potential crime other than obstruction of justice—but it’s also entirely possible that this is the special counsel just trying to collect as much information as possible around an entity already under investigation by the Department of Justice. ABC’s massive correction on their Michael Flynn bombshell from last week should give all of us pause, and we should maintain a healthy amount of skepticism around initial reports of supposedly significant movements in this opaque and incredibly wide-ranging investigation. If it’s legit, additional corroborating information will assuredly follow. The only conclusion that we can arrive at with any certitude is that Trump is kidding himself if he thinks this investigation will conclude by the end of the year. If anything, we’re just getting started.
UPDATE: This is why I said to be trepidatious with this report. The Wall Street Journal reported that the subpoena is “concerning people or entities affiliated with President Donald Trump, according to a person briefed on the matter.”
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.