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Why did Deutsche Bank keep lending money to Donald Trump — even after he defaulted on loans worth hundreds of millions and sued it?

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Whispers of money laundering have swirled around Donald Trump’s businesses for years. One of his casinos, for example, was fined $10 million for not trying hard enough to prevent such machinations. Investors with shady financial histories sometimes popped up in his foreign ventures. And on Sunday, The New York Times reported that anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank internally flagged multiple transactions by Trump companies as suspicious. (A spokesperson for the Trump Organization called the article “absolute nonsense.”)

The remarkably troubled recent history of Deutsche Bank, its past money-laundering woes — and the bank’s striking relationship with Trump — are the subjects of this week’s episode of the “Trump, Inc.” podcast. The German bank loaned a cumulative total of around $2.5 billion to Trump projects over the past two decades, and the bank continued writing him nine-figure checks even after he defaulted on a $640 million obligation and sued the bank, blaming it for his failure to pay back the debt.

“Trump, Inc.” isn’t the only one examining the president’s relationship with the bank. Congressional investigators have gone to court seeking the kind of detailed — and usually secret — banking records that could reveal potential misdeeds related to the president’s businesses, according to recent filings by two congressional committees. The filings were made in response to a highly unusual move by lawyers for Trump, his family and his company seeking to quash congressional subpoenas issued to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, a second institution he banked with. Trump’s lawyers have contended that the congressional subpoenas “were issued to harass” Trump and damage him politically.

Earlier today, a federal judge in New York declined to issue a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. During the hearing in which he delivered that ruling, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos said Congress is within its rights to require the banks to turn over Trump’s financial information, even if the disclosure is harmful to him.

For their part, the filings for the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees say they are “investigating serious and urgent questions concerning the safety of banking practices, money laundering in the financial sector, foreign influence in the U.S. political process, and the threat of foreign financial leverage, including over the President.” The inquiry includes investigating whether Trump’s accounts were involved in two large schemes involving Deutsche Bank and Russian clients.

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The committees want to determine “the volume of illicit funds that may have flowed through the bank, and whether any touched the accounts held there by Mr. Trump, his family, or business.” Links to Russia will get a particularly close look. “The Committee is examining whether Mr. Trump’s foreign business deals and financial ties were part of the Russian government’s efforts to entangle business and political leaders in corrupt activity or otherwise obtain leverage over them,” the filing stated.

The podcast explores some eyebrow-raising Trump-related moves by the bank:

  • Deutsche Bank’s private wealth unit loaned Trump $48 million — after he had defaulted on his $640 million loan and the bank’s commercial unit didn’t want to lend him any further funds — so that Trump could pay back another unit of Deutsche Bank. “No one has ever seen anything like it,” said David Enrich, finance editor of The New York Times, who is writing a book about the bank and spoke to “Trump, Inc.”
  • Deutsche Bank loaned Trump’s company $125 million as part of the overall $150 million purchase of the ailing Doral golf resort in Miami in 2012. The loans’ primary collateral was land and buildings that he paid only $105 million for, county land records show. The apparent favorable terms raise questions about whether the bank’s loan was unusually risky.
  • To widespread alarm, and at least one protest that Trump would not be able to pay his lease obligations, Deutsche Bank’s private wealth group loaned the Trump Organization an additional $175 million to renovate the Old Post Office Building in Washington and turn it into a luxury hotel.

Like Trump, Deutsche Bank has been scrutinized for its dealings in Russia. The bank paid more than $600 million to regulators in 2017 and agreed to a consent order that cited “serious compliance deficiencies” that “spanned Deutsche Bank’s global empire.” The case focused on “mirror trades,” which Deutsche Bank facilitated between 2011 and 2015. The trades were sham transactions whose sole purpose appeared to be to illicitly convert rubles into pounds and dollars — some $10 billion worth.

A spokesperson said Deutsche Bank has increased its anti-financial-crime staff in recent years and is “committed to cooperating with authorized investigations.” The bank said it has policies in place to address the potential for conflicts of interest, including “special measures with respect to clients that hold public office or perform public functions in the U.S.”

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The bank was “laundering money for wealthy Russians and people connected to Putin and the Kremlin in a variety of ways for almost the exact time period that they were doing business with Donald Trump,” Enrich said. “And all of that money through Deutsche Bank was being channeled through the same exact legal entity in the U.S. that was handling the Donald Trump relationship in the U.S. And so there are a lot of coincidences here.”

Listen to the episode.

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“Trump, Inc.” is a production of WNYC Studios and ProPublica. Support our work by visiting donate.propublica.org or by becoming a supporting member of WNYC. Subscribe here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Ex-Ambassador to Russia explains how Putin will exploit the divisions between Trump and his advisors

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The former U.S. ambassador to Russia explained how Vladimir Putin will exploit the divisions between President Donald Trump and his advisors.

"A double bombshell in reporting from The New York Times this weekend about the president and his relationship with Russian president Putin," anchor Kasie Hunt said.

"First, The Times reports that the U.S. is escalating online attacks on Russia’s power grid in an effort, 'partly as a warning and partly to be poised to conduct cyber strikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.' But that’s not all," she noted. "The second bombshell in that report that officials are worried about briefing the president."

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QAnon authors in a fight over doing an audiobook — because they think their followers can’t read

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On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that the authors of a popular book for believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory are in a bitter fight over whether or not to release an audiobook version.

QAnon: An Invitation to The Great Awakening came out last year and peaked near the top of the Amazon bestseller list in March. One of the book's co-authors, Dustin Nemos, is publicly attacking another co-author, who goes by the name of "JoeM," for his "petty and hostile and paranoid" refusal to help produce an audiobook, and notes that it is necessary because a disproportionate number of QAnon believers are elderly, have bad eyesight, and may not be able to read the book as text. JoeM, for his part, has accused Nemos of being a "grifter" who is trying to make a buck off of true believers.

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Population of Earth to reach 9.7 billion in 2050: UN

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The world population is expected to climb to 9.7 billion in 2050 from 7.7 billion today, with the population of sub-Saharan Africa doubling, a United Nations report released Monday said.

The population could then grow to 11 billion by 2100, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs's "World Population Prospects" report.

The study paints a picture of a future in which a handful of countries see their populaces surge as life expectancy lengthens while the global growth rate slows amid declining fertility rates.

By 2050, more than half of the world's population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States.

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