Representative Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Committee on Financial Services, has been pushing since March to connect dots that could link Donald Trump, his associates, Germany’s Deutsche Bank, and Russian oligarchs. Now it appears she’s getting some help from Robert Mueller, the Russiagate special counsel, whose office has issued a subpoena to Deutsche Bank over accounts linked to various associates of the president.
The twin efforts could determine whether or not various members of Trump’s inner circle benefited from the flow of money-laundered funds from Russian oligarchs, through Germany and Cyprus, to Trump-linked businesses and people in Trump’s inner circle, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
To understand why this might be important, consider two facts: First, Deutsche Bank was caught red-handed in a money-laundering scheme that involved $10 billion in dirty money from Russian oligarchs, and in 2017 it was forced to pay fines totaling $671 million to New York’s Department of Financial Services, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, and the US Federal Reserve. Second, since the 1990s the German financial colossus has been Donald Trump’s personal go-to piggybank, which has supplied Trump and his companies with a staggering $3.5 billion in loans and loan-guarantee agreements since 1998.
For Waters, and perhaps for Mueller, too, the question is: Are these two things related? Did Trump, Kushner, and their partners—along with others in Trump World, including Paul Manafort, Gen. Michael Flynn, and Wilbur Ross, the billionaire who serves as Trump’s commerce secretary—benefit from illegal Russian money that flowed through Deutsche Bank? If so, does President Trump have a hidden obligation to Russia or to Russian oligarchs? And why did the official US investigation of Deutsche Bank’s illegal transactions, conducted under the auspices of Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department, go “dormant” earlier this year?
Those questions are especially relevant because of two major recent transactions between Deutsche Bank, Trump, and Kushner. In the first, the bank loaned Donald Trump $300 million—money that the president still owes the bank—to get him out of a sticky debt situation. And, second, Jared Kushner secured a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank on the eve of last year’s election, in a transaction that, The Nation reported in August, involved a cast of characters tied to the infamous June 6, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between Kushner, Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and an assortment of Russians who’d promised to supply the campaign with “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.