On Nov. 30, Donald Trump took to his favorite medium and tweeted that on Thursday night, Dec. 15, he would give a speech that would put to rest all fears over his myriad financial conflicts: his debts, his investments, his plans for both. Perhaps he would even explain the fact that he and his kids don’t seem to know what a blind trust means—finally we would have an explanation.
Well, early yesterday, the Trump camp announced that this grand reveal would be postponed for a month, presumably to give the Orange Wizard of Oz and his flying monkeys more time behind the curtain. Donald Trump faces a far more complex transition than any president before him in terms of his holdings, and they’re made all the more complicated by the fact that his assets have been built using tactics like tax shelters, loans and banking rules only available to the wealthiest humans on Earth—which is all the more reason this latest delay in any kind of explanation is unacceptable. Of all the back talk and contradicting himself Trump has done these past two years, nothing about the man has been more shrouded in secrecy than his financials, which is ironic considering it was touted as one of his main “strengths” during his long and tumultuous campaign. The need for clarity doesn’t stop with what he’ll do with his many holdings and investments around the world, The more pertinent questions might be to whom around the world Donald Trump—who has proudly called himself “the king of debt” —owes his ocean of debt to, and what will happen to that debt when he takes office.
The problem many ethics experts have with Trump’s plan is simple: If the President Elect continues to be involved in his many properties, his policies—and those of other governments which he could influence—could affect both his assets and his sizable debts. Trump’s decision-making in the oval office would not only affect every American, it would intercede directly with his own personal financial well-being. That’s a frightening thought, and a blatantly egregious conflict of interest. All of Trump’s properties are mortgaged to the hilt by massive international banks with their own interests at stake that are large enough that presidential policy can have a great effect on their bottom lines. Clearly, Trump has a vested interest in how these banks—his creditors—are performing.
Adding complexity to this tangled mess is the fact that Trump takes out loans like he swaps wives or uses hairspray: with great frequency. As of May this year, Trump had 16 outstanding loans worth upwards of $713 million, and that’s not counting the estimated $2 billion of debt that real estate partnerships that include Trump have amassed. For brevity’s sake, we won’t cover the many smaller (relatively speaking) amounts he owes, such as the paltry $23 million owed Investors Savings Bank or the miniscule $16 million Trump is into Amboy Bank for; instead let’s focus on one we know is over $350 million: Deutsche Bank.
Deutsche Bank, who currently has The Donald on the hook for a remarkable $364 million, perhaps found in the brash real estate mogul a kindred spirit, as the oft-troubled bank has been his top lender for years now. It must be true love, because as the rest of Wall Street bailed on Mr. Trump, Deutsche Bank stood by their man—even when Trump hit the German bank with a $3 billion dollar lawsuit (all marriages have rough patches) after 2008’s financial collapse. Trump arrived at that staggering figure after deciding he didn’t want to pay the $40 million he had personally guaranteed the bank after Deutsche Bank and others gave Trump a $640 million dollar loan in 2005 to finance his Chicago tower.
The U.S. government has laid a healthy portion of the 2008 financial crisis at the feet of Deutsche Bank (as did Trump in his lawsuit), alleging the bank misled investors into buying bad mortgage-backed securities and demanding restitution from the bank in the form of $14 billion. Since Deutsche Bank says such a fine would be ruinous for them and are fighting the amount in court, it is very unlikely that the matter will be settled before January 20th, meaning that Trump’s government will be deciding how they want to handle going after the very people to whom Trump owes mountains of money—and some of his success.
Clearly, this alone is an unprecedented matter that needs to be address urgently, as Trump has borrowed at least $364 million from Deutsche bank since 2012. When will those loans be due? In 2024, at the end of a potential second Trump term. Only a child would struggle with the obvious conflicts here.
Another bright-as-the-sun red flag loan is a $950 million beauty that Trump’s pals at Goldman Sachs cooked up with the state-owned Bank of China that some have said violates the emoluments clause in the constitution, which states that no member of the American government can benefit financially via a foreign government. Beyond the obvious problems this presents, let’s take a moment and recall all the times on the campaign trail Trump called China an economic rival and said that Goldman Sachs “owned” Hillary Clinton after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees. I suppose in addition to being the first post-truth president, we are also now entering the first “post-math” era.
Let us also consider The Donald’s brand-new opulent Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., which has already become the subject of controversy as ethics experts worry that foreign dignitaries and investors will book rooms and events there in order to sway the President Elect’s favor their way. The hotel, which resides in a government-owned building, saw over 100 foreign diplomats darken its doors in the week after the election—and since the building is owned by the US government, if there is ever an issue it will be a Trump administration negotiating with a Trump property. My money’s on Trump.
There is more (much, much, much more) and that is exactly why Donald Trump needs to address this mess—but nothing we’ve seen in the last two years should leave anyone with any doubt that Donald Trump will not be forthcoming with this, or any, information about his finances. The back-and-forth about this supposed mastermind of economics’ finances has been going on so long we are quite a ways past it being ridiculous. The citizenry at some point has to start ignoring Trump’s tweets and brunches with Kanye and start demanding a look at what’s behind his financial curtain, because what was presented during the campaign as a financial powerhouse looks a lot more like a house of cards at this point—and if history has taught us anything, it’s that Donald “The King of Debt” Trump does not like getting stuck with the bill.