Donald Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner received a $285 million loan from a bank known for laundering Russian money, according to a story that the Washington Post published late yesterday evening.
For many years, Deutsche Bank was the only lending institution willing to overlook Trump’s many bankruptcies and finance his projects. He currently owes more than $300 million to the bank, which has recently paid out billions of dollars for its role in the “global laundromat” that allowed Russian organized crime to clean up some $20 billion in illicit cash.
Neither Deutsche Bank nor Kushner would comment on the WaPo story. The White House said that Kushner “will recuse from any particular matter involving specific parties in which Deutsche Bank is a party” — which is great, but does not answer any of the burning questions about Kushner’s loan.
Here are five of them that seem important:
1 – Was the loan a reward for his role in the campaign?
Kushner secured the loan a month before the November election. Furthermore, “the Deutsche Bank deal was one of the last Kushner orchestrated before joining the White House,” reporter Michael Kranish writes.
In December, when he was working on Trump’s transition team, Kushner also met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, a Kremlin agent who runs the state development bank Vnesheconombank, which is under US sanctions. Kushner has yet to clarify what was discussed at the meeting and whether he was mixing his family business with his new role as a public servant.
The outline of a possible conspiracy is hard to miss: a generous loan as thanks for Jared Kushner’s work on the campaign, followed by the promise of even bigger money after Trump’s Electoral College victory.
2 – Why did Kushner fail to mention the loan on his financial disclosure forms?
The timeline shows a clear pattern of Kushner evading disclosure. Just as he “forgot” to report his meeting with Kislyak and Gorkov when he applied for his security clearance, Kushner decided not to mention this massive loan to the the Office of Government Ethics.
Blake Roberts, a lawyer who represented Kushner on the matter, said in a statement to The Post that Kushner’s form “does not list the loan guarantee” because the disclosure relied on “published guidance” from OGE that he said “clearly states that filers do not have to disclose as a liability a loan on which they have made a guarantee unless they have a present obligation to repay the loan.”
The Post sent the language cited by Kushner’s lawyer to Don Fox, a former general counsel and acting OGE director. After reviewing the wording, he said in an interview that he would have advised Kushner to disclose the personal guarantee of the $285 million corporate loan because of its size and possible implications.
“If I were still at OGE and somebody came to us with that set of facts, I would say, ‘By all means, disclose it,’ ” he said, referring to “the spirit of the law.”
After being informed of Fox’s statement, Roberts contacted Fox to present his view that no disclosure was required. Fox said in a follow-up email to The Post that even if OGE “advised there was no requirement to disclose,” he would not have argued that point but “I would have nonetheless recommended Jared over report in this instance given the magnitude of the contingency and the public interest in liabilities — actual and potential — to Deutsche Bank.”
The Trump family has consistently found every excuse to report as little as possible on their potential conflicts of interest when the ethical norm is to report as much as possible. Leaving your brand-new $285 million loan from a sketchy bank off your disclosure forms is not some petty oversight. It’s a deliberate choice, and an ominous one.
3 – Why are the loan terms so generous?
Incredibly, Jared Kushner and his brother Joshua can get away with defaulting on this debt provided that they don’t fail to pay taxes on the property, embezzle the money, waste it, use it to commit other crimes, or file for bankruptcy.
That’s because the Deutsche Bank loan came with something called a “nonrecourse carve-out,” also known as a “bad boy clause.” In the event that they default, Deutsche Bank will merely foreclose on the property — four floors of the New York Times building that Jared bought in 2015 — without pursuing the Kushners.
So Blake Roberts can say that Kushner has no “present obligation to repay the loan” with a straight face because those are in fact the terms of the loan. But is that why Kushner negotiated the “carve-out” in the first place? Did he always intend to circumvent public disclosure?
Furthermore, Deutsche Bank appraised the property almost 50% higher than the price Kushner had paid for it just one year before. Was that really because of a stellar “turnaround,” as the Kushner Company’s president claims, or was it a sop to the new royal family?
4 – Why are only congressional Democrats looking into the loan?
When Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee asked Deutsche Bank for information on Donald Trump’s loans in May, they also asked about his “family members,” including Kushner.
In a letter to the bank CEO, they said “Congress remains in the dark on whether loans Deutsche Bank made to President Trump were guaranteed by the Russian Government, or were in any way connected to Russia.”
In addition to the internal review conducted on the mirror trading scheme, Deutsche Bank also reportedly conducted an internal review of the personal accounts of President Trump and his family members, several of whom serve as official advisors to the President. Press reports citing unnamed sources indicate that this review was done to determine if loans made to him were backed by guarantees from the Russian Government, or were in any way connected to Russia, as they were made in “highly unusual circumstances.” At a time when nearly all other financial institutions refused to lend to Trunp after his businesses repeatedly declared bankruptcy, Deutsche Bank continued to do so-even after the President sued the Bank and defaulted on a prior loan from the Bank -to the point where his companies now owe your institution an estimated $340 million.
Citing privacy laws, the bank declined to answer this query. Of course, Congress could move to subpoena those bank records, but it remains to be seen whether House Republicans will ever join their colleagues in trying to clear up this matter. For now, they seem to be uninterested in fulfilling their constitutional role as a check on executive malfeasance.
5 – Who else is scrutinizing this loan?
It stands to reason that former FBI director Robert Mueller will look very closely at this Deutsche Bank loan. Of all the players involved, he has the most power to compel disclosure.
But it is also quite possible that New York Attorney General (and longtime Trump antagonist) Eric Schneiderman could take an interest, since the transaction clearly took place within his jurisdiction. Such an investigation would be impossible for Trump or Kushner to quash.
Remember, Jared Kushner is reportedly the close adviser who gave Donald Trump the very bad advice to fire FBI Director James Comey in a misguided attempt to shut the whole investigation down. That mistake led directly to Mueller’s appointment.
Yet Trump can still fire Mueller, risking a constitutional crisis, or pardon Kushner for any federal crimes he may have committed, which is not true of any state charges. Just as Schneiderman carried out his own action against Deutsche Bank for their money laundering, he could potentially charge Kushner with violating state laws, making it impossible for Trump to protect him.
As Rachel Maddow would say, “watch this space.”
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