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Deutsche Bank targeted by Dems over Trump ties

Deutsche Bank is facing a perilous 2019 with fresh scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers over the German financial titan’s dealings with President TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE.

Democrats are eager to probe the bank’s relationship with Trump when they take control of the House, hoping to expose potential financial crimes and connections to Russian oligarchs.

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California Democratic Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersJuan Williams: Tim Scott should become a Democrat The Hill's Morning Report - Biden address to Congress will dominate busy week Maxine Waters: Judge in Chauvin trial who criticized her was 'angry' MORE and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows - Cheney removal, CDC guidance reverberate Schiff: Biden administration needs to 'push harder' to stop violence in Mideast Sunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans MORE both plan to subpoena Deutsche Bank for Trump’s financial records when they likely take over the House Financial Services and House Intelligence committees, respectively, in January. 

The bank has reportedly already provided such records to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, who is investigating the Trump Organization’s business activities in Russia as part of his broader probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Schiff told The New Yorker last week that he plans to obtain Trump’s records to see if there is anything in Trump’s business dealings that could raise questions about undue Russian influence. Trump owes the bank hundreds of millions for loans.

“Is that why Trump is so pro-Russian? Is his financial interest guiding his foreign policy?” Schiff asked.

“We are going to be looking at the issue of possible money laundering by the Trump Organization, and Deutsche Bank is one obvious place to start,” he continued.

Germany’s largest bank is already reeling from a slew of financial and legal troubles in the U.S. and Europe. The firm has paid billions of dollars in fines to settle allegations of money laundering, sanctions violations, market manipulation and risky sales practices.

The bank faces massive legal consequences from those actions and now faces the prospect of being dragged into a fierce political fight in the U.S. over its ties to Trump.

Top Democrats say investigating the bank is simply basic congressional oversight, but the probes are certain to give potent political ammunition to some of Trump’s most prominent critics.

“Typically, these investigations rarely unearth new information (especially if there are already other federal cases open by career prosecutors),” Brandon Barford, partner at Beacon Policy Advisors, told The Hill. “But they are a conduit by which certain facts can be emphasized and politicized.”

The company says it is cooperating with all probes.

“Deutsche Bank takes its legal obligations seriously and remains committed to cooperating with authorized investigations,” said spokesman Troy Gravitt in a statement. “Our recent record of cooperating with such investigations has been widely recognized by regulators. We intend to keep working in this spirit.”

Deutsche Bank has fallen dramatically from its perch among the most powerful global investment banks. Mounting costs from years of litigation and mismanagement have eviscerated its profits, and the firm is shrinking its investment wing in a pivot away from Wall Street.

Deutsche Bank was deeply involved in the risky mortgage-backed securities market and in 2017 paid the Justice Department $7.2 billion to settle fraud charges related to their role in the 2008 financial crisis.

The bank has also paid billions to settle both civil and government lawsuits alleging interest-rate manipulation, violations of U.S. financial sanctions and money laundering in Russia.

Its Frankfurt headquarters was raided last month as European Union prosecutors probe Deutsche Bank’s involvement in a tax-avoidance and money-laundering scheme detailed in the so-called Panama Papers.

Its business dealings with Trump, though, will take center stage in the U.S. House Democrats want to look for any potential connections between the bank’s questionable financial practices and its significant outstanding loans to Trump and his business empire.

Trump owes Deutsche Bank hundreds of millions of dollars on construction loans issued in the 1990s and 2000s through the firm’s wealth management unit. The bank was one of the few willing to deal with Trump, who was shunned by the rest of Wall Street after several bankruptcies. The Washington Post reported in 2016, shortly before Trump’s election, that he had debts totaling $360 million through his companies to Deutsche Bank.

“The Democrats have something of a target on Deutsche because of the bank’s relationship with the president,” said Ian Katz, director at analytics firm Capital Alpha Partners.

Trump has warned that investigating his personal finances would cross a red line. Waters, the incoming chairwoman of the Financial Services panel, though, has already sought information from Deutsche Bank about its relationship with Trump.

The bank has so far declined her requests, but once she takes the committee gavel, Waters can subpoena the company. That will force Deutsche Bank to comply or fight the subpoena in court.

“Deutsche Bank is key to understanding the relationship between the president and members of the president’s family and money laundering and all of that,” Waters told The Hill in a November interview.

Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats are also calling for more scrutiny on the bank.

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas Sanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' MORE (D-Mass.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenTensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted Van Hollen says members should stand with Cheney on election claims MORE (D-Md.) have called on Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoSenate GOP to give Biden infrastructure counteroffer next week Biden says he and GOP both 'sincere about' seeking infrastructure compromise The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden expresses optimism on bipartisanship; Cheney ousted MORE (R-Idaho) to open a bipartisan investigation into Deutsche Bank.

“The compliance history of this institution raises serious questions about the national security and criminal risks posed by its U.S. operations,” they wrote.

Crapo told Politico this week that he didn’t plan on opening an investigation into “specific companies.”

But he acknowledged the bank’s troubles and said some of those problems could be addressed by work his committee is undertaking on money laundering laws.

The pressure Deutsche Bank is facing is likely to grow over its Trump ties and compliance with U.S. and European laws.

“They’re in a tough spot right now,” said Katz.