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Politics & Government

2 House Committees Issue Subpoenas To Deutsche Bank For Trump's Financial Records


Two congressional committees that are looking into President Trump's finances have issued subpoenas to a number of banks. Among those institutions, Germany's Deutsche Bank. Over the years, it's done a lot of business with Trump and his company. The bank also has a checkered history that includes laundering money for Russian individuals.

To talk more about Deutsche Bank, we're joined by NPR's Jim Zarroli. And, Jim, the subpoenas are basically putting a spotlight on Deutsche Bank and its past. What kind of relationship did it have with the president?

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Well, you've got - go back to the 1990s, when some of the casinos that Trump owned declared bankruptcy. A lot of banks wouldn't lend to Trump after that. But Deutsche Bank did. So when Trump became president, he had very large mortgages with Deutsche Bank on some of his best-known properties, like the Trump National Doral resort in Miami, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, also the Trump International Hotel in Washington. He owed more than $50 million on each according to the financial statement that he filed in 2017.

So there's always been this open question about why Deutsche Bank lent to Trump when other banks wouldn't. And for investigators, the question is, you know, all the more pressing because Deutsche Bank has really a record of malfeasance and irregularities.

CORNISH: Tell us more about that history, some of the allegations. We mentioned money laundering earlier.

ZARROLI: Right. Well, yeah, money laundering - the bank paid fines totaling $630 million in 2017. Regulators said some of its clients moved a huge amount of money, like $10 billion, out of Russia into offshore accounts illegally. And Deutsche Bank basically allowed it to happen. The - and the allegations about money laundering continue. Just recently, in November, the bank's headquarters in Frankfurt were raided by investigators. They were looking at how Deutsche Bank helped set up illegal accounts as part of this big, money laundering - global money laundering scheme.

So add to that Deutsche Bank paid $7.2 billion for helping set up toxic mortgages before the financial crisis. It paid a big fine for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Syria. So really, the bank has a long record of scandal, to say the least.

CORNISH: Why are congressional investigators interested in the bank at this point?

ZARROLI: Well, we don't know exactly. But one of the interesting things that has come out involves Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, who has pleaded guilty to tax and bank fraud and is about to go to prison. He testified before a congressional committee in February. He said that in early 2014, Trump wanted to buy the NFL team the Buffalo Bills. So he went to Deutsche Bank for a loan, and he gave the bank a financial statement.

And according to Cohen, this statement really inflated the value of Trump's assets. Cohen said Trump did this a lot. We should point out here that Deutsche Bank was also subpoenaed by the New York attorney general's office recently. It, too, is investigating Trump's finances.

CORNISH: Has Deutsche Bank had anything to say so far about these subpoenas?

ZARROLI: Yeah, it says it's cooperating with investigators as much as it can. This is generally how it responds to these allegations. The bank is trying to sort of salvage its reputation after years of lawbreaking. We also contacted the president's attorneys for comment. They didn't respond. But Trump's son, Eric, put out a tweet today. He accused Congress of harassment. He said - he said, quote, "this nonsense is the exact reason Americans have such disdain for politicians and that my father was elected president."

CORNISH: All right, that's NPR's Jim Zarroli. Jim, thank you.

ZARROLI: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.