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Trump responds to reports of suspicious transactions by rewriting his financial history

If Trump doesn't need banks, why does he keep asking them for loans?

President Donald Trump this week took issue with new reporting from the New York Times, specifically for stating that Deutsche Bank was the only bank willing to do business with him because of his poor financial record.
President Donald Trump this week took issue with new reporting from the New York Times, specifically for stating that Deutsche Bank was the only bank willing to do business with him because of his poor financial record. (Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed lit up again Monday morning as he attempted to counter The New York Times’ latest reporting on his financial history, which involved claims about his accounts with German financial services company Deutsche Bank. Along with failing to materially rebut the Times’ piece, however, the president indulged in a tidy bit of revising of his financial history.

According to the Times, Deutsche Bank’s computer systems noticed possible illicit activity in both the president’s account as well as that of his son-in-law and presidential adviser, Jared Kushner. But when bank employees filed official reports on that suspicious activity, executives at Deutsche Bank allegedly ignored their concerns and failed to report them to the government.

For example, the system flagged numerous transactions from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. Federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank to be more rigorous about reporting suspicious transactions specifically because it had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians. Though employees produced a suspicious activity report, anti-money laundering experts never reviewed the report, and executives chose not to report it to the government.

Trump’s concerns Monday morning, however, had little to do with these suspicious transactions. Instead, he took issue with the Times’ implication that Deutsche Bank was the only bank willing to do business with him because of his poor financial record.

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“The Failing New York Times (it will pass away when I leave office in 6 years), and others of the Fake News Media, keep writing phony stories about how I didn’t use many banks because they didn’t want to do business with me,” he tweeted. “WRONG! It is because I didn’t need money. Very old fashioned, but true. When you don’t need or want money, you don’t need or want banks. Banks have always been available to me, they want to make money.”

He added, “Now the new big story is that Trump made a lot of money and buys everything for cash, he doesn’t need banks. But where did he get all of that cash? Could it be Russia? No, I built a great business and don’t need banks, but if I did they would be there…and Deutsche Bank was very good and highly professional to deal with – and if for any reason I didn’t like them, I would have gone elsewhere….there was always plenty of money around and banks to choose from. They would be very happy to take my money.”

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The problem with this portrayal is that it in no way resembles Trump’s relationship with any bank — including Deutsche Bank.

Because of how much money Trump lost on his business and real estate ventures in the 1980s and 90s, bankers coined the phrase “Donald risk,” a reference to how unwilling banks were to lend to him.

Deutsche Bank was the only bank still willing to do business with him, but even that relationship was tense. In 2008, Trump couldn’t afford to make payments on a $640 million loan — $40 million of which he had personally guaranteed, so he sued the bank, claiming it was responsible for the financial crisis. The suit was ultimately settled.

Deutsche Bank continued lending to Trump after that, but he was still a liability. According to the Times, when he became president, he was still delinquent to Deutsche Bank to the tune of $300 million. As of last year, Trump still had liabilities totaling nearly $500 million to banks and financial services firms, including up to $175 million to Deutsche Bank. As the Times reported earlier this year, Trump had also asked for a loan during the 2016 campaign, which Deutsche Bank declined to provide.

Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank is also facing new friction. House Democrats have subpoenaed Trump’s financial records from the bank, which appears prepared to cooperate. Trump has now sued the bank to try to force it not to comply with the congressional subpoenas.

It’s impossible to square Trump’s claim that he’s flush with cash with the sizable loans he has taken out and the amount he apparently still owes. If anything, his obsession with asserting his wealth — combined with his cavalier disregard for the consequences banks have faced from working with him — speaks to his belief that he deserves praise for getting away with massive business losses.