How's your German? Trump, Deutsche Bank and the Russians

Published: 3/19/2017 10:00 AM
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By Robert P. Bomboy

How’s your German?

Many of us took German as a foreign language in high school.

I was a teacher once over on the hill where the old Shamokin High School taught college classes. For the story I want to tell, you need only one word: Deutsche.

Yes, Johnny, Deutsche means German. Put it together with Bank and you have Deutsche Bank.

Here in Shamokin we don’t hear much about the Deutsche Bank, though it’s Germany’s largest. It’s been having a lot of difficulties, hit by corruption scandal after corruption scandal. It was fined more than $630 million for failing to prevent $10 billion in Russian money-laundering — and has paid $7.2 billion to settle a lingering bond mis-selling scandal. Deutsche Bank’s money-laundering links to Russia came out last August in a New Yorker Magazine investigative article titled “The Moscow Laundromat.”

The bank has a long-term connection to Donald Trump and his family — including a particularly amazing story that we didn’t know about when we voted for the president last fall.

Deutsche Bank’s New York office is one of the few on Wall Street still willing to lend to the Trump empire. It also lends millions to Trump’s extended family, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Weeks before last fall’s election, the bank refinanced most of the $370 million of debt against retail spaces that Kushner’s company owns in midtown Manhattan.

Those of us around here who have to balance our checking accounts, might think it’s amazing that the bank will still lend to Trump, after a trick he pulled back in 2008.

When he borrowed $640 million in 2005, Trump gave his personal guarantee that he would pay it back, but when the first big payment came due, he reneged. It was 2008 and Trump said the Great Recession that year was an act of God equivalent to an earthquake.

He said that, since no one could have anticipated it, and it wasn’t his fault, he didn’t have to pay back anything. Nada. Nothing. And he got away with it. He had once said: “I figured it was the banks’ problem, not mine. What the hell did I care.”

Can you imagine where we’d be if we did that?

The bank and Trump finally reached an agreement in 2010. Then the bank gave him more money. He owes Deutsche Bank about $300 million right now.

So why?

More and more people think that where there’s smoke, there’s fire:

Congressman Joe Crowley, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Democratic Caucus, says, “When a foreign-owned bank that is under investigation by the Department of Justice holds hundreds of millions in personally guaranteed debt for the president that is problematic for ethical, diplomatic, and judicial reasons.”

This is part of the Trump administration’s Russian connection. We need an independent investigation, a special prosecutor.

(Robert Bomboy is an alumnus of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and has written for more than 60 national magazines. He is the author of six books, including the novel “Smart Boys Swimming in the River Styx.” He taught for more than 30 years in colleges and universities, and he has been a Ford Foundation Fellow at the University of Chicago and in Washington, D.C.)

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