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New York attorney general subpoenas Deutsche Bank for information related to loans to Trump, signaling new inquiry

The New York attorney general has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records related to three Trump properties, including Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.
The New York attorney general has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records related to three Trump properties, including Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. (Joshua Lott/for The Washington Post)

The New York attorney general has subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank related to three large loans the bank extended to President Trump’s company in recent years — and a fourth loan that Trump sought to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, according to two people familiar with the subpoenas.

Those subpoenas signal a significant new inquiry by state regulators into the Trump Organization’s financing.

The subpoena follows congressional testimony by Michael Cohen — Trump’s former lawyer and longtime self-proclaimed “fixer” — that Trump inflated his net worth in documents he sent to Deutsche Bank while seeking loans.

The German bank also was crucial to Trump’s real estate business in the last few years before he ran for president, lending him more than $360 million since 2012. The loans let Trump buy new properties and refinance old ones, despite his history of corporate bankruptcies and disputes with lenders.

In all cases, the loans came not from Deutsche Bank’s main commercial lending division, but rather from a smaller office of the bank that manages money for high-net-worth clients.

Deutsche Bank had already received requests for documents from the House’s Financial Services and Intelligence committees. This new inquiry seems to signal that New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is investigating the same loans.

A spokeswoman for James declined to comment Tuesday. The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.

Deutsche Bank issued a statement Tuesday saying only, “We remain committed to cooperating with authorized investigations.”

Just last week, another New York agency — the Department of Financial Services, which oversees insurance — issued a subpoena to Trump’s longtime insurance broker, Aon. Cohen had testified that Trump had used the same kind of inflated financial statements in attempting to lower his insurance premiums.

The Deutsche Bank subpoenas were for documents related to three Trump properties, all bought with loans from the bank, the two people confirmed. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal details of the documents.

Trump got $125 million to buy the Doral golf resort outside Miami. He got $170 million to create Trump International Hotel inside a federally owned building in Washington. And he got about $69 million from the bank in 2014 to refinance old Deutsche Bank loans on Trump’s tower in Chicago.

In addition, the people said, the subpoena asks for documents related to Trump’s attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2013 — a deal that did not materialize. During his congressional testimony last month, Cohen provided copies of “statements of financial condition,” which he said were sent to Deutsche Bank in pursuit of a loan for that purchase.

“Did the president ever provide inflated assets to a bank in order to help them to obtain a loan?” Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) asked Cohen.

“These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one occasion when I was with him in our attempt to obtain money so that we can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills,” Cohen said.

The “statements of financial condition” are not rigorously audited documents. According to a cover letter on one of the files obtained by The Washington Post, they represented Trump’s own estimates about what he was worth and what he owed.

Cohen said these statements exaggerated the income Trump received from commercial properties. They also included a valuation of one property — a mansion Trump owns in suburban New York — at $291 million, when local assessors put the value around $19 million.

In one statement from 2013, Trump doubled his own estimate of his net worth by declaring that his name brand alone was worth $4 billion.

The subpoenas issued Monday were first reported by the New York Times. The Times also reported that Investors Bank, a New Jersey institution, had been subpoenaed for a 2010 loan it extended to the Trump Organization related to Trump Park Avenue, a residential building in Manhattan. That bank did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Deutsche Bank became one of Trump’s main lenders over the last 12 years — a time when Trump was trying to shake off corporate bankruptcies and return to his previous fame as an ambitious real estate developer.

Before this period, Trump had called himself “the king of debt” for his use of bank mortgages to pay for audacious purchases and projects. But that strategy backfired at times: Trump suffered through a debt-fueled financial collapse in the early 1990s, and corporate bankruptcies. He even sued Deutsche Bank in 2008, during the financial crisis, to avoid making payments on a large loan related to the Chicago tower.

After that, Trump changed his strategies. He began buying many properties in cash, without any public record that he’d borrowed the money. And, when he did borrow money, his financial-disclosure forms show, he relied heavily on three lenders.

One was Ladder Capital Finance, a New York investment firm that employs the son of Trump’s longtime aide Allen Weisselberg. That company largely lent Trump money to refinance existing commercial buildings in New York.

Then there was Deutsche Bank, where the private-wealth office funded new projects and refinanced the troubled tower in Chicago.

Trump’s other big lender during this period, according to his financial-disclosure documents, was an unusual company called Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC. Trump’s disclosure document says he owes this company more than $50 million, due to a 2012 transaction involving the Chicago tower.

But Trump himself owns Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC. His company has declined to answer questions about how — and why — Trump came to owe more than $50 million to himself.