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What Congress Might Find in Trump’s Deutsche Bank Records

May 8, 2020 1:06 pm By

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the most consequential separation-of-powers case since President Nixon went to battle with Congress over the Watergate Tapes. The Court will meet via teleconference on the morning of May 12 to hear Trump v. Deutsche Bank A.G. and Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, the final battle in a two-year legal war over Congress’s ability to review President Trump’s financial records.

In April 2018, a newly-minted House of Representatives (now under Democratic control) issued a number of subpoenas as part of a wide-ranging money laundering investigation involving President Trump. The subpoenas were issued by two House Committees: the House Intelligence Committee (Adam Schiff, Chair) and the House Financial Services Committee (Maxine Waters, Chair). Two of those subpoenas were issued to Trump’s largest lender, Deutsche Bank, and his accounting firm, Mazars USA.

President Trump sued both entities as a private citizen to block them from complying with the subpoenas. Trump wants the Supreme Court to overrule a number of lower court decisions and determine that compliance would irreparably harm citizen Trump and the subpoenas don’t serve a lawful purpose.

Congress wants the Court to stay consistent with its own precedent and defer to Congress’s broad subpoena power by upholding the subpoenas. Importantly, sources have indicated to Forensic News that the House Committees investigating this alleged money laundering scheme have remained active in recent weeks.

Here, Forensic News examines four allegations regarding Trump’s Deutsche Bank relationship to show what might be revealed if the bank is free to comply with Congress’s subpoenas (a more in-depth analysis of the cases from a legal perspective will be available soon, also from this author).

Russian Co-Signers?

Much of Trump’s business since the financial crisis of 2008—a critical point in time that will be discussed further in the next section—has been financed by massive and sometimes bizarre loans issued by a division of Deutsche Bank shrouded in secrecy.

Forensic News reported in January that the son of a deceased Deutsche Bank executive who worked for this division told the FBI that bank insiders had revealed to him many of Trump’s loans were co-signed or underwritten by Russian state banks or oligarchs. Val Broeksmit, the son, also provided the FBI and Forensic News with a cache of documents that belonged to his father, Bill. Some of the documents indicated the division of Deutsche Bank that Trump worked with (which is called DBTCA) had reportedly received disproportionately large deposits from Russian financial institutions, including a $500 million deposit from Kremlin-owned Gazprombank. Deutsche Bank and Gazprombank declined to comment.

If Trump’s loans were co-signed by Russian oligarchs or banks owned by Russian oligarchs, Trump has a whirlwind of problems headed his way. Take, for example, the financial ties between Trump and Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. The relationship between the two men made headlines in the first half of the Trump Administration when it surfaced Trump had purchased a Florida property for $41 million in 2004 and, in 2006, sold it to Rybolovlev for $95 million. Despite the $54 million net increase, Trump had made no improvements to the property. If Congress discovered documents from Deutsche Bank indicating that the true purpose of the sale involved giving Trump cash to pay off loans from DBTCA, Trump’s favorable treatment of Russian oligarchs from the White House looks more like a quid pro quo than a mere policy preference.

Furthermore, relationships like these may subject President Trump to criminal charges once he leaves office. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, it has been subject to severe financial sanctions by the United States and other Western countries. Many banks, including VTB Bank, Gazprombank, and other financial institutions controlled by the Kremlin, are the direct targets of such sanctions. It’s illegal for American citizens to engage in a variety of business activities with those institutions as a result. Some prohibited activities include certain kinds of lending, investment in American businesses, and cash transactions.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer currently incarcerated for fraud and campaign finance crimes relating to Trump’s presidential campaign, also said that VTB Bank (then under sanction) was the proposed funding source for Trump Tower Moscow, the lucrative real estate deal Trump pursued while running for president according to the Mueller Report. Cohen testified to Congress that the Trump Tower Moscow deal was scrapped by June 2016. It is unknown whether another type of business relationship continued between Trump and VTB Bank after that. However, Deutsche Bank notably raced to sever its own relationship with VTB Bank in December 2016, taking a loss on a $1 billion loan it made to the Russian Bank by selling it to Alfa Bank (another Russian bank with ties to Trump).

Even if Trump managed to escape criminal liability for violating U.S. sanctions law (assuming the ties between his loans and Russian banks or oligarchs really exist), Russian support for Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans would present an existential national security concern.

Russia engaged in systematic and widespread election interference activities in order to aid Trump’s election. Russia is presumed to be involved in the assassinations of several dissidents and associates of Russian oligarchs in the U.K. Russia recently threatened the Czech Republic for removing Russian statues from public places, suggesting it seeks to exert control over former Soviet states. As we know, Russia invaded the sovereign borders of Ukraine, a U.S. ally, and later tried to divert blame to Ukraine for its own election interference activities. That effort was aided by Trump himself, part of the reason Trump was impeached by Congress.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III described Russia’s election interference operations as “sweeping and systematic” and told the House Intelligence Committee he did not investigate allegations of Russian money laundering. (Credit: AP).

If Congress could show Russia bankrolled Trump’s financial “success” by propping up his struggling real estate empire, it would be hard to conclude Trump’s repeated symbiosis with Putin and the Russian state is mere coincidence. Depending on the evidence, a compelling case could be made that Trump was paid to intentionally undermine the interests of the United States, perhaps through direct criminal conduct with a U.S. adversary. It also might explain some of Trump’s most controversial acts as President (see: abandoning the Kurds in Syria leaving them to seek aid from the Russia-backed Syrian government, allowing Turkey to invade Syria, lifting sanctions on Oleg Deripaska’s energy companies, withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, repeatedly criticizing NATO, withholding military aid from Ukraine unless it exonerated Russian asset Paul Manafort, siding with Russia over his own intelligence agencies in Helsinki). The contents of the Deutsche Bank records are critical to a co-equal branch of government’s ability to ensure a hostile foreign power is not controlling the Executive Branch.

The Mystery Lawsuit

Since Trump started receiving strange loans from the DBTCA division of Deutsche Bank around 2008-2010, one might think his relationship with the German financial giant started then. But that is wrong.

Trump began his career in real estate in the 1970s on the coattails of his father, Fred Trump. After a failed attempt to foray into show business, Donald rebranded Fred’s real estate business “The Trump Organization.” In 1978, Donald Trump got his first bid on a major project in Manhattan: renovating the Grand Hyatt Hotel next to Grand Central Station. The project was touted as Donald’s first success, but recent investigations exposed his father as a silent guarantor for all loans Donald obtained to renovate the hotel. The project was as much Fred’s as it was Donald’s.

But the 1980s saw a dizzying array of Trump projects: his first casino in Atlantic City in 1984; purchase of Mar-a-Lago in 1985; the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1988; the Taj Mahal Casino later that year. As these major expenditures went out, other Trump projects were started and shuttered for failure. The Trump Shuttle (a short-lived, failed Trump Airline) and the Trump Princess (a megayacht Trump purchased in the late 1980s in a strange chain of transactions that lead back to the uncle of murdered Saudi journalist, Jamal Kashoggi) were two such ventures amongst a litany that are now infamous among Trump’s detractors (Trump Steaks, Trump University, and Trump Water all failed, too).

The costs for the major purchases were astronomical. The Taj Mahal was built at a cost of $1.1 billion, financed with junk bonds at a devastatingly high 14% interest rate. Trump bought Mar-a-Lago for $5 million; the Saudi megayacht for $29 million; the Plaza Hotel for $400 million. This was all spent in one decade. Loans Trump obtained to renovate the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan cost $70 million, and Trump Tower had also cost $175 million to build in the early 1980s. How was Trump going to pay for all this?

Trump’s casino business was the first to file for bankruptcy in 1991; his other businesses soon followed. Since then, his businesses have filed for a total of six bankruptcies. Trump’s financial meltdown was no doubt a result of his taking out loan after loan after loan, unable to pay them off at once. By 1998, banks would not fund Trump projects due to his failure to repay debt. Trump’s money well would go dry if he couldn’t build new properties.

But a finance miracle was on the way. Later in 1998, Trump was connected to the commercial real estate division of Deutsche Bank. One prominent employee of the division was the son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justin Kennedy. The Deutsche commercial real estate division was eager to take on risky American projects in order to gain a foothold in U.S. markets. Kennedy went on to work with Trump on several projects.

But why was Deutsche willing to finance Trump projects when no other bank would? Evidence sought by Congress might shed light on the matter. According to an extensive Buzzfeed News investigation, since 1980 more than 25% of all Trump’s U.S. properties have been purchased in secretive, all-cash transactions which enabled buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding identities. These sales began three decades ago, in 1983, and partially explain how Trump avoided total financial failure between his spending blitz in the 1980s and 1998. According to Buzzfeed, the suspicious transactions in New York and Florida alone total out to $1.19 billion. Buzzfeed identified $1.5 billion in suspicious transactions. If Deutsche executives took such transactions into account when authorizing loans for Trump projects, they would be relevant to Congressional investigations of how banks comply with money laundering regulations.

Strangest of all is the way Trump’s relationship with the commercial real estate division of Deutsche Bank ended. As Trump burned through Deutsche Bank’s money, Congress was drafting and amending the Patriot Act, an expansive piece of legislation passed in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. While most Americans (and some of Trump’s associates) are aware of the law’s intelligence-gathering provisions—like wiretaps—fewer people know that the Patriot Act is also responsible for modern-day money laundering laws. The Patriot Act requires banks to comply with “know-your-customer” rules regarding overseas transactions, including for real estate. This spelled trouble for Trump’s projects, which by then had received over $1 billion from faceless shell companies.

Still, Trump was flying high with Deutsch Bank. Then his relationship with the commercial real estate division mysteriously imploded.

The story goes like this: in 2006, Deutsche had provided $650 million in funding for Trump Tower Chicago. It was another condominium-hotel, no doubt destined for the same kind of shell company transactions typical for a Trump venture. As the project prepared to open, 25% of units in the building remained unsold in the already-built Chicago Tower. But this wasn’t unusual for a Trump project and had never been a problem for Deutsche Bank in the past. Plus, it was 2008. The financial crisis had slowed most real estate projects. Trump was hardly alone in failing to move luxury real estate.

Trump used his lawyers to try to get out of paying off the loan. He claimed the financial crisis was an act of God under a clause in the loan contract, but that was a stretch. The lawsuit appeared frivolous. However, Deutsche decided to aggressively countersue and demand payment on a loan it gave Trump for the Chicago Tower. What’s more, its move was especially hostile because Trump himself had personally guaranteed that loan for $40 million. He–not the Trump Organization–was on the hook for payment.

It was a shot across Trump’s bow from a bank that had been friendly to him for a decade, all over a lawsuit that would likely be dismissed. More bizarrely, Trump counterclaimed that he shouldn’t have to pay anything because Deutsche Bank’s financial practices had actually caused the financial crisis. There are the rough edges of business, and then there is outright warfare.

According to the New York Times, the lawsuit represented the end of Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank’s commercial real estate division, which would mean the end of Trump’s relationship with the bank generally (as he operated a commercial real estate company). But when Trump saw Justin Kennedy at an event shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the two were friendly: “It’s just business,” Trump said, according to the Times. Even stranger: Kennedy accepted this explanation.

Just business? Trump tried to stiff his lenders, who went after him personally for $40 million. He then countersued them and accused his own bank of causing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. That’s not just business–the Kennedy-Trump interaction seems ludicrous.

Little more than six months after Congress updated the Patriot Act’s money laundering provisions, another American division of Deutsche Bank—a separate entity called Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (DBTCA)— moved to expand its “wealth management” division. One hire was Rosemary Vrablic, a private banker who began her winding career as a bank teller and worked her way into the boardrooms of Citigroup and Bank of America. It was an unusual path for someone who said she got her start in banking by meeting someone on a train. Deutsche announced her hiring in September 2006. She was set to earn $3 million a year, an atypically exorbitant sum, according to the Times.

Trump had started interacting with Vrablic about getting loans from DBTCA as early as 2008, while he was still working with the commercial real estate division. The lawsuit broke him away from the commercial real estate division in 2009. Trump moved to settle the lawsuit in 2010, agreeing to pay what he owed to the Deutsche commercial real estate division, dropping his blusterous claims against the bank. But where was he going to get $48 million (the total of the loan he personally owed, plus interest) to pay the debt?

Bizarrely, Vrablic simply drew up a $48 million loan from DBTCA for Trump to use to pay off Deutsche’s commercial real estate division. That’s right: the bank was going to use one division to pay another in order to move Trump from one division to the next. Financial experts regard this transaction as “unheard of” or inexplicable. But the deal went through, Deutsche Bank paid itself for a debt Trump owed, and Trump moved his business to DBTCA.

The timeline surrounding Trump’s lawsuit with Deutsche Bank is confusing. Other outlets that reported details regarding the lawsuit and Trump’s move from the commercial real estate division to DBTCA don’t offer much in the way of clarity on dates. What is clear is that Trump began speaking with Vrablic around 2008 or 2009, introduced to her by Jared Kushner. Trump’s original loan to the commercial real estate division was due in November of 2008, and he filed the initial suit to get out of payment around that time. By 2010, the lawsuit was settled with remarkable simplicity: Trump would pay the bank what he owed, making the entire lawsuit inexplicable. In 2010, Trump received a loan from DBTCA through Vrablic to pay off the commercial real estate division.

Congress will want to know what internal company communications exist about Trump’s lawsuit with Deutsche Bank. Did Trump and Vrablic concoct a plan to move his business from one division to another? How did the bank justify paying itself to keep Trump, a serial defaulter on loans, including ones from Deutsche Bank? Why did it even want to continue to do business with him? Was the lawsuit a maneuver to use the court system and a media gambit to evade law enforcement scrutiny of Trump’s real estate business and Deutsche Bank’s commercial real estate division?

Answers to those questions rest with Deutsche Bank employees like Vrablic, Kennedy, and, of course, documents controlled by Deutsche Bank. Some of those documents and communications may be shielded by attorney-client privilege, but that is an analysis for a later date (and a separate article) once the Supreme Court announces its decision.

The “Private Banking Division”

Trump’s move to DBTCA isn’t just strange because it covered Trump’s debt to another division of Deutsche Bank. It also raises eyebrows because DBTCA has its own set of problems.

DBTCA doesn’t look weird on paper. It’s is a separate entity of Deutsche Bank’s American operations with two functions: private wealth management and global transaction banking. Neither financial operation is itself an indicator of wrongdoing, and most banks offer similar services. But there are three aspects of DBTCA’s work that demand further scrutiny:

  • It provided a series of loans to Trump for real estate projects, even though DBTCA was not in the business of doing commercial real estate;
  • Smack in the middle of DBTCA’s work with Trump, DBTCA received extensive deposits to the tune of $3 billion from Russian banks, some of which have been targeted (and sometimes prosecuted) by Western law enforcement agencies for money laundering;
  • Eventually, Trump’s repeated requests for loans from DBTCA were denied by senior executives at Deutsche Bank for “fear of exposure.”

Private Bankers doing Commercial Real Estate

As we know, Deutsche Bank had a commercial real estate division that worked with Trump for almost a decade. While DBTCA had a commercial real estate portfolio for clients (i.e. investments for wealthy clients in large real estate companies), it did not usually provide lending for individual commercial real estate projects. Except when it came to Trump.

Between 2010 and 2016, DBTCA funded Trump’s acquisition of a 100-year lease of the Washington Post Office for $170 million; his purchase of his Doral Resort in Florida for $106 million (with an additional, inexplicable loan of $19 million); his renovation of the Turnberry Golf Club in Scotland for an undisclosed sum; as well as the $48 million to pay off Trump’s debt (to Deutsche Bank).

(Clockwise, from top left) The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. (formerly the Washington Old Post Office), Trump Turnberry Scotland, and the Trump National Doral Resort were all financed by loans from DBTCA.

DBTCA was in wealth management and global transaction banking, not real estate. Yet it provided Trump an inexplicable line of credit to acquire new properties and build new projects. Note, however, the shift in the type of real estate projects.

No longer was Trump building condos which create revenue through cash purchases by shell companies. His new projects were funded purely via loan and didn’t involve future real estate sales. Instead, these projects operate solely on revenue from hotels, golf clubs, restaurants. There would be no Patriot Act scrutiny over this kind of revenue. But how did DBTCA justify lending to Trump for luxury hotels and golf clubs in the midst of a financial crisis?

Massive Russian Deposits

This brings us back to a point of the Trump-Deutsche Bank relationship which remains an allegation. Forensic News reported in January 2019 that Val Broeksmit told the FBI that he was told by bank insiders that VTB Bank and other Russian banks “underwrote” Trump’s loans from DBTCA. While Forensic News was unable to verify Val’s underlying claim, we did analyze his father’s documents and determined that there was an extensive relationship between VTB Bank and DBTCA.

Per our reporting:

Forensic News can . . . confirm that at least some of Trump’s loans were issued by a bank subsidiary [DBTCA] with business ties to VTB. That subsidiary owed more than $48 million to VTB in 2013 and documents suggest the subsidiary continued doing business with VTB even after the bank was sanctioned in 2014. [We also] obtained emails, documents, banking records, and other communications from Val and others showing a closer relationship between VTB and DBTCA than previously reported . . .[A] separate set of documents from companies with business in Russia indicates that DBTCA acted as a correspondent bank and intermediary bank for VTB 24 – a previous subsidiary of VTB – even after sanctions were implemented in 2014.

We later confirmed the $48 million liability reported in internal DBTCA documents was a cash deposit by VTB Bank into DBTCA. According to an internal spreadsheet created by Val’s father, the sum was listed as a liability by bank officials until it was dispersed to VTB’s “vendors.”

Even more alarming than the maze of shell company transactions and suspicious loans to Trump was the rest of the spreadsheet Val gave to us. The spreadsheet—entitled “MCO Breach Report”—listed all DBTCA’s assets and liabilities as of October 2013. It was a goldmine of information, but the depth of DBTCA’s ties to Russia was jarring.

Russian banks were responsible for some $3 billion in deposits to DBTCA, and represented a staggering 26% of all DBTCA’s deposits (more than the next three countries combined). Even if you removed private Russian banks from the equation, Kremlin-owned banks alone still rank second in DBTCA’s biggest deposits by country, according to Broeksmit’s document. The largest single deposit came from Gazprombank—which is Kremlin-owned—to the tune of $515 million.

At the time of his inauguration, Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner (and companies controlled by them) owed Deutsche Bank a combined $659 million-$699 million, according to a Forensic News analysis. The vast majority of this money was owed to DBTCA specifically. DBTCA has issued:

At least one bank insider told Forensic News that higher-ups at DBTCA told him “not to touch” the VTB-DBTCA relationship; another still said the bank was hush-hush about its deep relationship with VTB Bank, which surprised him. There are connections between VTB Bank and Deutsche Bank’s Moscow division.

There are so many questions about Trump’s tenure with DBTCA. Why was the private banking division willing to lend to him after so many previous defaults? Were the deposits involved in Deutsche Bank’s decision to have one division of its bank pay off a client’s court-ordered debt to another division of its bank? Why was Trump’s $48 million debt paid through a strange looking shell company, Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC?

How did private bankers guarantee Trump would pay off his loans? What “vendors” received the money from cash deposits made by Russian banks like Gazprombank and VTB? Were any of the “vendors” Trump-controlled business entities? Did DBTCA continue to do business with Russian banks after they were sanctioned in 2014?

There is at least one person who can answer these questions: Rosemary Vrablic. She has declined interviews, but reportedly expects to be subpoenaed by Congress if the Supreme Court rules Deutsche Bank must turn documents over to Congressional investigators. She worked hard for Trump and Kushner until mid-2016, at the height of the presidential election. Then she finally hit a wall.

Trump Finally Gets Denied

Trump was lending large sums of money from his own companies to fund his presidential campaign. By February 2016, Trump asked DBTCA for more loans. He told them they were for his golf course in Turnberry, but bank executives had doubts. Senior American executives at DBTCA said no to Trump for the first time.

But Vrablic continued to fight for Trump, and appealed to bank headquarters in Frankfurt. However, they too declined the loan, fearing increased exposure from continued lending to Trump. Exposure to exactly what remains unclear.

Rosemary Vrablic (right, with Jared Kushner) was a private banker at DBTCA who worked with Kushner and Trump and facilitated almost all their loans. She was a private guest of the Trump Family at President Trump’s inauguration. (Credit: NY Times).

The bank initiated an examination of its relationship to Trump at that time, as well as its own financial ties to Russia. Curiously, after Trump won the election, Deutsche Bank raced to dump its own $1 billion lending relationship with VTB Bank, the sanctioned bank owned by the Kremlin that had been proposed to finance the Trump Tower Moscow project. Deutsche Bank loaned $1 billion to VTB Bank as a means of providing it access to American cash. The loan originated in the DBTCA division.

Why Deutsche Bank raced to sell the loan was unclear. The Wall Street Journal reported Deutsche executives sought to limit its exposure to Russia in light of ongoing investigations into Russia’s role interfering in the U.S. election.

But Deutsche Bank dumped the loan in December 2016, before serious investigations into Russia’s role in interference were underway. That was also months before the resignation of Michael Flynn, the firing of James Comey, and the appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as Special Counsel–months before the Trump-Russia story really took off.

Either Deutsche Bank executives are prescient to the point of bordering psychic ability, or they knew some information the public did not. Deutsche Bank ended up selling the loan to Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private bank, for a substantial loss. Congress may not buy into the notion that Deutsche Bank made a $1 billion decision about its relationship with VTB Bank based on a simple gut feeling about potential investigations into Russia, and would be prudent to dig further into the $1 billion relationship between VTB Bank and DBTCA.

All in all, Trump’s loans from DBTCA may be the most potent resource for Congressional investigators looking for evidence of money laundering or Trump’s financial ties to hostile foreign actors. One very plausible explanation for Trump and Deutsche Bank’s evolving relationship is that each evolution represents an attempt to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Trump spent decades paying off loans from Deutsche Bank with suspicious cash payments from shell companies for his properties. By 2010, he and his associates at Deutsche Bank would have known that Congress and law enforcement were getting serious about curbing money laundering in real estate. Suddenly, Trump has a bad break with the commercial real estate division he had worked with for a decade. Notice all Trump’s major projects post-2010 were hotels and golf courses (Doral Resort, Turnberry Golf Course, Washington Post Office Hotel), commercial real estate projects that didn’t involve individual condo sales.

But by moving into a private bank, Trump may have gotten himself into more trouble (if foreign funding for Trump’s loans really did occur). Loans require co-signers, underwriters, guarantors; how payments are made on loans can be traced; how deposits made by sanctioned Russian banks into DBTCA were disbursed to “vendors” can be similarly traced. The “paper trail” might be more substantive than it was when he operated a massive, shell-company real estate scheme. His signature might be on documents with names of Russian oligarchs or banks. It gets much harder for Trump to claim he didn’t know about the deep ties between his projects and Russian financiers if evidence like that emerges. Chairman Schiff and Chairwoman Waters would be remiss if they did not call Vrablic to testify about President Trump’s financial arrangements, just how he remained creditworthy in DBTCA’s eyes, and whether that involved Russian banks or oligarchs playing a role in his finances.

Suspicious Activity Reports

Finally, Congress will certainly want to review suspicious activity reports (SARS) reportedly filed by Deutsche Bank employees involving legal entities controlled by President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The New York Times reported that a number of transactions—some of which involved Trump’s defunct foundation—set off “alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity.” The transactions involved money flowing back and forth with overseas entities or individuals. Some transactions involved Trump’s limited liability companies, while others involved Kushner’s companies.

The Times cited five current and former bank employees as sources.

More concerning are specifics about when the SARS were filed and the way they were handled by higher-ups at Deutsche Bank. The Times reported that in the summer of 2016, the height of the presidential campaign, Deutsche Bank’s software “flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner.” A Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist, Tammy McFadden, reportedly reviewed the transactions and found the money moving from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals warranted law enforcement scrutiny.

Tammy McFadden, a Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist, filed a suspicious activity report on Kushner but was overruled by executives at DBTCA. (Credit: NY Times).

McFadden prepared a report that would “typically be reviewed by a team of anti-money laundering experts who are independent of the business line in which the transactions originated.” The Times reported that, in Kushner’s case, that business line in question was the “private-banking division” at DBTCA. So, McFadden’s report needed to be reviewed by a group independent of that division.

But this report instead went to managers who were part of the private bank at DBTCA, where Rosemary Vrablic works. They overruled McFadden and did not submit any report to the government. This particular report–and McFadden’s willingness to go on the record–is critical to advancing Congress’s subpoena power. Congress’s authority to investigate with subpoenas is tied directly to its role in drafting competent legislation. A question about whether banks are complying with federal law (and, by extension, whether those laws need to be updated to better enforce compliance) fits squarely within Congress’s powers. If Deutsche Bank is using internal maneuvers to quash efforts by employees to comply with money laundering regulations, Congress needs to know about it.

Congress will want to get its hands on the reports and evidence of the transactions at issue. It will likely ask McFadden to testify firsthand about her experience with Deutsche Bank’s compliance with banking regulations—a legislative concern so legitimate it is almost unimaginable any court, including the Supreme Court, would dismiss it in favor of Trump’s arguments that his personal records should be entirely off-limits to a co-equal branch of government.

***

What lies in Donald Trump’s Deutsche Bank records is still a great unknown. Many speculate the bank has already destroyed any incriminating evidence that might have existed regarding its relationship to Trump. While that’s possible, multi-million dollar financial transactions are hard to erase. When they involve moving overseas money, it is near impossible to eliminate all evidence of their existence.

Furthermore, there are witnesses available to speak about any missing documents. Vrablic, Kennedy, or others who worked at Deutsche Bank could explain what was happening in boardrooms as Trump’s loans were prepared. McFadden might tell Congress how anti-money laundering compliance efforts were conducted relating to Trump and Kushner.

Congress also has money laundering experts on hand, ready to dive into thousands of documents Deutsche Bank has reportedly collected and is prepared to send to Congress in the event the Supreme Court rules they may do so. Those experts should be able to fill in the blanks if documents appear missing, or press Deutsche Bank officials for further compliance should it fall short in a meaningful way.

Ultimately, the question is whether the Supreme Court goes against decades of precedent and American history by suddenly deciding Congress’s oversight powers (of banks, public officials, and presidents) don’t mean anything when they affect the president in a personal way. Given the suspicions raised above, that sounds like a stretch—even for this Court.

 

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