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Jul 21 2017

The Russian Connection: Desperation

In his interview with New York Times reporters Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman Donald Trump said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating his family’s finances would be a “red line.”

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes.

Despite the implied threat, Mueller is expanding his investigation by looking into Trump’s and his family’s accounts and business dealings with Deutsche Bank.

After a string of bankruptcies in his casino and hotel businesses in the 1990s, Mr. Trump became somewhat of an outsider on Wall Street, leaving the giant German bank among the few major financial institutions willing to lend him money.

Now that two-decades-long relationship is coming under scrutiny.

Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele, according to three people briefed on the review who were not authorized to speak publicly. The regulators want to know if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks.

Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts, according to two people briefed on the matter. And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

It was not clear what information the bank might ultimately provide. Generally, the bank is seen as central to understanding Mr. Trump’s finances since it is the only major financial institution that continues to conduct sizable business with him. Deutsche Bank has also lent money to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and to his family real estate business.

Trump’s reaction to this news was to gather with his consiglieres to find ways to discredit Mueller and his team, investigate their backgrounds and explore his pardon options for his co-conspirators and himself.

The New York Times and the Washington Post both published stories Thursday evening detailing efforts by President Donald Trump’s legal team to cripple and de-fang Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and possible collusion with that country in meddling with the 2016 election.

The Times piece, written by Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Matt Apuzzo, detailed efforts by the White House legal team and Trump’s personal lawyers to dig up potential conflicts of interest to use as disqualifying factors and impugn Mueller’s objectivity in the case.

In the Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger said that not only are Trump’s attorneys looking for ways to undermine Mueller’s authority, but are also exploring the legal minutiae of presidential pardons.

The Trump administration is setting itself on course for a showdown with Mueller rather than quietly submitting to the investigation. Trump and his attorneys would clearly rather attack and sabotage the workings of the investigation rather than hope his arguments will survive on their merits. {..]

However, given what we know about investigations into former Trump 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort’s connections to Russian money laundering and clues from intelligence services that Russia was pumping money into the 2016 election through elaborate shell companies and other entities, it is entirely possible that it is within Mueller’s purview to examine those records.

Trump’s last western creditor, Deutsche Bank agreed Thursday to hand over its financial records of Mr. Trump’s dealings with the bank, something it has previously declined to do citing privacy laws.