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American banks don’t support Trump — voters soon won’t either

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Speculating what will doom President Donald J. Trump has become a Washington parlor game. British betting companies have been putting odds this summer at better than 50-50 that Trump will not last his first term. Las Vegas has odds at up to 33 percent that the president will be gone by year’s end. But for an early exit to occur, whether it be from resignation or impeachment, the much ballyhooed Trump base would have to lose its faith. 

We’re wagering that, when the bling and bluster wear thin and when the sugar high from Twitter tirades has worn off, the pitch forks will be out for our celebrity-in-chief. Trump is a genius self-promoter, but he’s a terrible businessman. We bet the facts catch up to him. 

{mosads}There are early clues from Trump’s time at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Candidate Trump boasted frequently that he was an exemplary student at “the world’s best business school.” Trump was never enrolled, however, in Wharton’s prestigious graduate program. Rather, he was a transfer student in its less-renowned undergraduate program, where his academic record remains a mystery.


While some news outlets have reported that Trump graduated first in his class in 1968, there’s no evidence for such claims. We only know that Wharton policy will not confirm that fact, that Trump has declined to release his own records and that the commencement program from that year does not list him as graduating with honors.

Who cares? Three years before Trump graduated from Wharton, a student at Yale named Fred Smith got a “C” for a paper challenging the way delivery of parcels worked in the United States. Smith famously went on to start FedEx and revolutionize an entire industry. No one is suggesting that college professors know how to mentor maverick entrepreneurs.

But what about Trump? He left two years of undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania to stack up bankruptcies and a stellar list of lawsuits over the years — some 3,500, in fact. Donald Trump’s success has been as a reality television star. His record as billionaire and real estate guru is murky at best. 

As long as he refuses to release his tax returns, we’ll never know how much he’s worth, or whether his assets even exceed his liabilities. We do know this: His financial disclosures reveal he owes lenders hundreds of millions of dollars, and for years now, it has been nearly impossible for him to get a loan for any of his real estate ventures.

This ought to be a flashing red light for Americans who know what it’s like to apply for a bank loan to buy a car or a house or to pay for healthcare or a child’s education. Donald Trump is the poster child for “disqualified” and “denied.” 

Deutsche Bank is an exception. The big German bank became Trump’s lifeline after U.S. lenders turned against him following a string of hotel and casino bankruptcies in the 1990s. Yet, the relationship has hardly been a harmonious one. In 2008, Trump sued Deutsche Bank in order to win the right to delay paying back an earlier loan.

After that, Trump and the commercial real estate division of the bank divorced, as the bank’s private wealth management unit that services ultra rich and celebrity clientele took over the relationship. Trump still owes Deutsche Bank at least $130 million.

It’s all a mess, and there’s a pattern. Trump’s career is that of a businessman whose options have steadily narrowed over the years. The same may apply today to the president’s political fortunes.

Support for him among loyalists appears already to be slipping. It may be Russian collusion, race debates or financial crimes that ultimately do him in. Our forecast though is that voters wake up one day and realize that if American banks won’t support Donald Trump, neither should they. 

Charles Davidson is publisher of The American Interest, a bimonthly magazine focusing primarily on foreign policy, international affairs, global economics and military matters.

Jeffrey Gedmin is a nonresident senior fellow for the Future Europe Initiative at the Atlantic Council. He is also a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

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