Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, demanding that it disclose details of transactions and documents on accounts help by President Trump and members of his family as the "Russian collusion" probe now turns its attention to Trump's bank accounts. According to Handelsblatt, which first reported the news, the bank received the subpoena several weeks ago. Trump has had a banking relationship with Deutsche Bank dating back nearly two decades and the German lender's $300 million loan accounts for nearly half of his outstanding debt (based on a July 2016 analysis by Bloomberg). Trump's debt to Deutsche includes $170m relating to a Washington hotel.
The media is taking the Deutsche Bank news as a sign that Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 alleged campaign is “deepening”. However, it was clear that a subpoena was coming more than four months ago (see below) and, besides Michael Flynn, Mueller’s investigation has included interviews with three other former Trump aides recently, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer and National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg, according to people familiar with the investigation.
As Bloomberg adds, "the news comes as Mueller’s investigation appears to be entering a new phase, with Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleading guilty Friday to lying to FBI agents, becoming the fourth associate of the president ensnared by Mueller’s probe. More significantly, he also is providing details to Mueller about the Trump campaign’s approach to Flynn’s controversial meeting with a Russian envoy during the presidential transition."
In June 2017, Deutsche Bank cited privacy laws for rejecting a request from US lawmakers to provide details of its relationship with Trump. The bank said that releasing information on Trump was illegal unless it received a formal request – hence the subpoena. The goal of the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters, had been to discover whether Russian entities had provided guarantees – or were connected in any way - to the loans to Trump or his family. According to The Guardian newspaper, Deutsche had conducted an internal investigation but.
The internal review found no evidence of any Russia link, but Deutsche Bank is coming under pressure to appoint an external and independent auditor to review its business relationship with President Trump.
A Deutsche Bank executive told Bloomberg that management was prepared to share information on its business dealings with Trump in the hope that it will end the series of inquiries. The news of the subpoena was expected.
In our July post, “Deutsche Bank Faces DOJ Subpoena Over Trump-Russia Probe", we noted the following:
Deutsche’s relationship with Trump and questions about hundreds of millions in loans have dogged the German bank and the White House for months, and now, 'according to sources' reported by The Guardian, Robert Mueller’s team and Trump’s bankers have established informal contacts and formal requests for information are forthcoming.
According to an analysis by Bloomberg, Trump now owes Deutsche, his biggest creditor, around $300m. He has four large mortgages, all issued by Deutsche’s private bank. The loans are guaranteed against the president’s properties: a new deluxe hotel in Washington DC’s old post office building, just around the corner from the White House; his Chicago tower hotel; and the Trump National Doral Miami resort.
The Guardian reports that executives inside Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump’s personal bankers, are expecting that the bank will soon be receiving subpoenas or other requests for information from Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
As we further noted, other financial institutions with links to the Trump family were likely to receive requests for information from Mueller and his team. One of these is Bank of America, so we might see more news on subpoenas like the one issued to Deutsche Bank. In the meantime, the “balanced” media reporting continues. Here is Eugene Robinson, an opinion writer for the Washington Post, writing yesterday.
We know that President Trump and his campaign either colluded with the Russian effort to undermine U.S. democracy or tried mightily to do so. We know that Trump has apparently obstructed justice to try to halt investigation into what happened. What we don’t know is whether Congress, in the end, will do its sworn duty to protect the Constitution.
We also don’t know what else special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might have discovered, especially about the Trump family’s international financial dealings. Or what Mueller might be learning from Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators. Or how far Trump, who is increasingly frantic, might yet go to squash the Mueller probe.
Robinson serves as chair for the Pulitzer Prize board, so it must be accurate.