Let me just remind everyone, right here at the outset, that you should generally guard against the overwhelming tendency to become numb to these types of stories just because they’ve become par for the course over the last two years.
Saying there’s a “new front” in the multi-sided investigations into Donald Trump, his businesses and his campaign is about like saying Donald Trump has opened up a new front in his ongoing war against America’s institutions. You could write the headline every, single day.
Indeed, the “genius” of Trump is that the sheer amount of times he’s attacked America’s checks and balances and the around-the-clock character of his efforts to erode the country’s institutions, has served to blunt public backlash in the same way that the audience becomes immune to violence about 30 minutes into a Rob Zombie film. It’s just so gratuitous that it loses its ability to shock us. In Trump’s case, that desensitization frees him up to further indulge his autocratic tendencies, knowing that we’re all so accustomed to it, we won’t even bat an eye if he does something like call the free press “the enemy of the people” in all-caps on Twitter or declare that some members of congress “hate America” while sweating his way through an unhinged CPAC diatribe.
Through it all, it’s important to remember that were this any other president, literally all of his bombastic tweets would be front page news and it’s the same thing with the myriad investigations into his administration, businesses and campaign.
On Monday evening, for instance, The New York Times reported that the New York attorney general’s office subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records related to four Trump Organization projects and, for good measure, a failed attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills.
If you’re wondering whether this is tied to Michael Cohen’s testimony, the answer is “yes.”
“The new inquiry, by the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, was prompted by the congressional testimony last month of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer”, the Times writes, citing a person briefed on the subpoenas.
This is at least the second new inquiry spawned by Cohen’s claim that Trump inflated the value of his assets in financial statements. Cohen, you’re reminded, produced copies of statements he claimed had been submitted to Deutsche Bank.
Earlier this month, New York State regulators subpoenaed Aon, the Trump Organization’s insurance broker regarding the same claims of asset price inflation.
This also opens a new front in scrutiny on Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank. That relationship is the subject of multiple inquiries, and a series of reports out over the past two months suggest the lender had serious misgivings about the scope of its ties to Trump in the lead up to the election.
Early last month, for example, it emerged that Deutsche turned Trump down for a loan in 2016 out of concern for the bank’s “reputation”. Apparently, then-candidate Trump’s bombastic rhetoric and the prospect that he just might win the presidency unnerved senior management, who ultimately decided against allowing Trump to effectively up existing leverage on his Miami property in order to “refurbish” Trump Turnberry.
About three weeks later, Bloomberg said the bank once considered extending the repayment dates on at least three loans until after his theoretical second term would end. Those include a $125 million loan for Doral which matures in 2023, $170 million for Trump International Hotel in Washington and a third loan against a tower in Chicago. The latter two are due in 2024 while the debt on Trump’s Miami resort matures in 2023.
Well, in the new inquiry revealed on Monday evening, Letitia James’s office is said to seek loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit and “other financing transactions” tied to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and, yes, the Trump National Doral outside Miami.
The Times goes on to remind you that when Trump tried to buy the Bills in 2014, he “gave Deutsche Bank bare-bones personal financial statements”, and James’s office wants records in connection to that too.
The only saving grace for Trump is that this is a civil matter (i.e., not a criminal investigation), but James can, if things were to get dicey enough, attempt to dissolve any business that appears to exhibit a pattern of illegality.
Of course Trump is no fan of this office. When James was elected in November, she delivered the following warning to the president during her victory speech in Brooklyn:
He should know that we here in New York — and I, in particular — are not scared of you. And as the next attorney general of his home state, I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings, and every dealing, demanding truthfulness at every turn.
Here’s what Trump had to say in December while wrapping up a multi-part Twitter harangue aimed at James and her office:
….In any event, it goes on and on & the new AG, who is now being replaced by yet another AG (who openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda), does little else but rant, rave & politic against me. Will never be treated fairly by these people – a total double standard of “justice.”
“GET TRUMP” indeed.
Coming full circle, it’s critical that the public doesn’t become so desensitized to these probes that everyone loses track of the fact that were this any other sitting president, each and every one of these investigations would dominate the news cycle for weeks.
But with Trump, it’s just “another day, another subpoena.”