Donald Trump’s banking information has formally been turned over to Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating whether the president’s campaign conspired with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election.
Deutsche Bank, the German bank that serves as Trump’s biggest lender, was forced to submit documents about its client relationship with the president and some of his family members, who are also Deutsche clients, after Mueller issued the bank with a subpoena for information, according to media reports. The news was first reported by Handelsblatt, the German newspaper.
The revelation makes it clear that Mueller and his team are investigating the president’s finances. Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, is also a client.
Deutsche Bank declined to comment, but told Bloomberg in a statement that it always cooperated with investigating authorities.
Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, denied the report, telling Reuters: “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”
Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Sekulow’s statement. But Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is investigating the Trump campaign, said Mueller’s reported subpoena of Deutsche Bank “would be a very significant development”.
“If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family,” Schiff said in a statement. He was referring to a private investigator’s unsubstantiated allegation that the Kremlin had video proof of the president’s involvement in a salacious sex act.
Schiff also noted that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, has stated in the past that the Trump Organization received substantial funding from Russia and that there have been “credible allegations” that Russians have used the company to buy Trump properties for the purpose of money laundering.
Legal experts who are following the investigation said it showed Mueller was “following the money” in his search for possible links between the presidential campaign and the Kremlin.
It also indicated that any investigation into Trump personally may not be limited to the question of whether or not the president sought to obstruct justice when he fired the former FBI chief James Comey.
Instead, said Ryan Goodman, a New York law professor and former Pentagon counsel, it showed that Mueller was possibly examining whether the president could be compromised by Russian interests.
“Deutsche Bank relates to the Russia collusion investigation,” Goodman said.
He pointed to the bank’s known relationships with Russian oligarchs and its previous dealings in Moscow among reasons why Mueller would be interested in having access to Trump’s bank accounts. The president was in the past loaned about $300m by the bank. His indebtedness, Goodman said, means that Mueller will want to examine if there are any connections between Russia and the president’s financial vulnerabilities.
Trump has consistently denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia and has stated that he did not have any business dealings in Russia. Since then, news has emerged that the Trump Organization sold a significant number of its properties to Russian clients and explored opening a hotel in Moscow, though the plan never came to fruition.
The president has repeatedly criticised the Mueller investigation and this weekend alleged that the FBI’s reputation was “in tatters”. The attack followed the guilty plea of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who is cooperating with federal investigators.
Mueller’s investigators have, according to previous media reports, examined Russian purchases of Trump-owned apartments, the president’s involvement with Russian associates in a development in SoHo, New York, and the president’s 2008 sale of his Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch, Dmitry Rybolovlev.
News of the subpoena was not unexpected. The Guardian reported in July that executives at the bank were anticipating they would receive a formal demand for the president’s banking records and had already established informal contacts with Mueller’s investigators.
The development nevertheless represents a significant blow to the president.
Deutsche Bank has for months been the subject of intense scrutiny – especially by Democrats on Capitol Hill – because of its dealings with the president and its history of banking violations, including its dealings in Russia.
The $300m in loans, some of which may have been restructured, were extended to Trump before he became president.
He has four large mortgages, all issued by Deutsche’s private bank. The loans are guaranteed against the president’s properties: a deluxe hotel in Washington DC’s Old Post Office building, just around the corner from the White House; his Chicago tower hotel; and the Trump National Doral Miami resort.
The Guardian reported in February that the bank had launched a review of Trump’s account earlier this year to gauge whether there were any connections to Russia and had not discovered anything suspicious.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser in the White House and Kushner’s mother, Seryl Stadtmauer, are also clients of Deutsche Bank.
Deutsche Bank has been the only financial institution willing to lend Trump significant sums since the 1990s, a period in which other Wall Street banks turned off the tap after Trump’s companies declared bankruptcy.
The German bank sued Trump in November 2008 after he failed to repay a $40m debt on a $640m real estate loan. Trump countersued and the matter was eventually settled in 2010. Trump then began doing business with Deutsche’s private banking business, which extended new loans despite the bank’s history of litigation with the onetime real estate tycoon.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.