Robert Mueller Crosses Trump’s “Red Line” By Seeking Information About Trump’s Finances

Mueller crosses Trump's "red line."

Donald Trump Robert Mueller

The past two months have seen several major developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This includes the indictments of Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates and the plea deals that were reached with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and former National Security Adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn. President Trump, the Administration, and Trump’s own legal team have responded to these developments with a combination of dismissal and the claim that these events mean that Mueller is nearing the end of his investigation. Most serious legal analysts, of course, have dismissed the latter argument as absurd, especially given the fact that Friday’s announcement of the Flynn plea deal suggests that Flynn, who was close to Trump right up to the day he was dismissed from the White House and may have been in frequent contact with the President after that according to some reports, has information that Mueller finds valuable to his investigation and which is likely to lead him to expand it rather than draw it to close. That conclusion is further supported by new reports that Mueller has subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank regarding Trump’s personal and business finances:

A U.S. federal investigator probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election asked Deutsche Bank for data on accounts held by President Donald Trump and his family, a person close to the matter said on Tuesday.

Germany’s largest bank received a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller several weeks ago to provide information on certain money and credit transactions, the person said, without giving details, adding key documents had been handed over in the meantime.

Deutsche Bank, which has loaned the Trump organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures, said it would not comment on any of its clients.

Mueller is investigating alleged Russian attempts to influence the election, and potential collusion by Trump aides. Russia has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it meddled in the campaign and Trump has said there was no collusion with Moscow.

The German bank is one of the few major lenders that has lent large amounts to Trump in the past decade. A string of bankruptcies at his hotel and casino businesses during the 1990s made most of Wall Street wary of extending him credit.

A U.S. official with knowledge of Mueller’s probe said one reason for the subpoenas was to find out whether Deutsche Bank may have sold some of Trump’s mortgage or other loans to Russian state development bank VEB or other Russian banks that now are under U.S. and European Union sanctions.

Holding such debt, particularly if some of it was or is coming due, could potentially give Russian banks some leverage over Trump, especially if they are state-owned, said a second U.S. official familiar with Russian intelligence methods.

“One obvious question is why Trump and those around him expressed interest in improving relations with Russia as a top foreign policy priority, and whether or not any personal considerations played any part in that,” the second official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

During his White House campaign, Trump said he would seek to improve ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which had been frequently strained during President Barack Obama’s administration.

There was no immediate response to the Deutsche Bank subpoena from Trump’s lawyers.


Trump had liabilities of at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a unit of the German bank, according to a federal financial disclosure form released in June by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

The Deutsche debts include a loan exceeding $50 million for the Old Post Office, a historic property he redeveloped in downtown Washington, mortgages worth more than $55 million on a golf course in Florida, and a $25 million-plus loan on a Trump hotel and condominium in Chicago, the disclosure shows.

All of those loans were taken out in 2012 and will mature in 2023 and 2024, according to the disclosure.

Previously, President Trump has hinted that Mueller would be crossing a red line if he extended his investigation into the President’s personal and business finances. This occurred more explicitly during a July 9th interview with The New York Times during which Trump acknowledged that an investigation into his personal or business finances, or any of his family member’s finances could be considered a “red line” for him. This admission came after months of reports that Trump had been forced to rely on loans that were at least partly backed by Russian banks in the early 90s when his personal and business finances were particularly strained due to the string of business bankruptcies and other financial setbacks he had experiences. It was well-known, for example, that Deutsche Bank had become one of the few major banks willing to underwrite Trump’s real estate deals in those years and that Deutsche Bank had a reputation for working closely with banks in Russia interested in being parts of projects around the world. Additionally, both of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who were already serving in high-ranking positions in The Trump Organization even back then, had been quoted by reporters as saying in an almost braggadocious manner that the real estate developer was getting a lot of money from Russian banking interests. Finally, several news outlets have reported that Trump has a long history with Russian banking interests, including banks owner by individuals known to be within the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin, that raise serious questions about whether or not he has a conflict of interest regarding U.S. relations with Russia in general and Putin in particular.

Remarks such as these led to a summer of speculation about whether or not Trump would seek to fire Mueller or make some other move to remove him from his position. This included speculation that the President could move Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his current position and make him the head of the Department of Homeland Security, a position that was vacated when retired General John Kelly was named White House Chief of Staff in the wake of the departure of Reince Priebus from the White House. Another possibility floated was that Trump would simple fire Sessions outright, especially amid reports that the President had become angry about the fact that Sessions had recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation given his role in Trump’s campaign and the fact that he was one of the people close to Trump who had meetings with the Russian Ambassador to the United States during the course of the campaign. It was in the wake of that recusal and the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey, which Trump later admitted was due to the bureau’s role in the Russia investigation, that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the decision to name Mueller special counsel and give him the job of carrying out and overseeing the investigation. In Trump’s mind, Sessions’ recusal is what led directly to Mueller’s appointment and that replacing him with someone unconnected campaign would give the President the opportunity to hobble the investigation by directing that Mueller be fired. While none of this has occurred, the implication that it could has been the talk of Washington for months.

With Mueller now having obtained subpoenas for Trump’s personal and business dealings with Deutsche Bank, one can assume the same thing is likely to happen with regard to any other financial institutions that Trump has had dealings with in the past. Given the President’s long-standing reluctance to reveal anything of substance regarding his finances, most exemplified by his refusal during the campaign to release copies of any of his tax returns, this move on the special counsel’s part is no part particularly grating. These reports may also indicate why, according to numerous reports and as evidenced by Trump’s often seemingly irrational Twitter rants in recent weeks, Trump has seemingly increased his efforts to undermine the investigations into the Russia matter by both Mueller and the relevant House and Senate committees. None of those efforts have succeeded, of course, and each successive move on Trump’s part leads back to one question. If the Russia investigation is, as Trump has claimed repeatedly, “Fake News” then why is he investing so much effort in trying to undermine it? What have you got to hide, Mr. President?




FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jc says:

    This is great! Now we are getting to the good stuff! The money! I hope it is picked to pieces down to every last penny.

  2. KM says:

    So question to all Trumpkins: exactly WHY should Trump’s financials not be investigated?

    Honestly, in any criminal investigation finances is often looked at as money is a key motivating or facilitation factor. An average citizen would have had their bank records under review by now as well as any business dealings. Since some of these meetings took place on property Trump owned, his information should have been in play from minute one since he was supposed to have released it during the election process. Had he done what literally every other candidate did, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

    Can you explain any logical reason this information isn’t relevant in Trump’s case it gets pulled for virtually everyone else under this kind of investigation?

  3. michael reynolds says:

    As I’ve said from the beginning, follow the money. (Not an original quote from me.)

    The media insists on seeing this as Trump conspiring with Putin to steal the election. That’s wrong. It assumes Trump and Putin are on equal footing, but they are not. They are not on equal footing because Putin already knows what happened with the famously corrupt Deutsche Bank and with the Bank of Cyprus as well.

    Trump is not a co-conspirator, Trump is owned, lock stock and barrel by Putin because, I strongly suspect, Trump is broke. Without laundered Russian money I don’t think Trump can scrape together anything close to a billion dollars. In fact his net worth may be zero.

    You’ll notice that this theory of events meshes perfectly with what we know of the facts of the case, and it meshes perfectly with Trump’s character and priorities. No other theory of the case does both those things.

    Money laundering is funny, there are many ways to do it, but my guess is that at its most basic:

    1) Trump’s multiple business failures and bankruptcies leave Trump without a bank.

    2) Deprived of the ability to borrow and then refuse to repay, Trump would go under.

    3) Suddenly Deutsche Bank has a bunch of money to offer Trump. Whose money? Russian money. What kind of Russian money? Not the clean kind.

    4) Trump takes the money, and with their hook set, Russian intelligence reels him in. Flattery, honey traps, the usual, and Trump, being a moron, buys it all.

    5) Trump thinks about running for election. The Russians say, “You know what we’d like? An end to sanctions and an end to support for Ukraine. Also, we’d like this guy Manafort to run your campaign. And then we could help you.”

    6) Trump can’t say no. In fact, Trump can’t say a single syllable against Putin, because Putin owns Trump.

    7) And then we get to collusion and conspiracy and treason. But the source is money and Trump’s inability to make it without committing fraud.

  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Cheeto-Dick can fire Mueller tomorrow and nothing will happen.
    Absolutely. Zero. Consequences.
    I’d love to see the investigation wrap up…just so that everyone will know what actually happened.
    It doesn’t matter though…Mueller could come back with direct evidence of Russian interference, smoking gun evidence of collusion with the Trump Campaign, and clear obstruction of justice charges…nothing will happen.
    Nada. Rien. Zilch. Bupkis. Nothing.
    We live in Trumpistan…where the rich are moral, the poor are immoral, and women and young girls are prey.

  5. Bill says:

    If this news is accurate* (We just had ABC News publish something inaccurate on Trump) then Trump will issue pardons to himself and or his family or fire Mueller. I expect the latter. This could all happen very soon.

    *- I’m just qualifying myself. At present there is nothing to make me believe that today’s report is untrue.

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Russia has been banned from the 2018 Olympics, because of doping.
    I wonder:
    a. if Vagina-Neck will tweet about this, or decide not to criticize his largest benefactor?
    b. deny US participation in protest of his adopted homeland being banned.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds: Michael, I think you are spot on. Talking Points Memo has been on this for a while. One of the things he has been stressing for more than a year, this division of Deutsche Bank is literally the only major bank left in the world that will do business with him. What makes it more interesting is that it is not the division of Deutsche Bank that deals with real estate, rather it is the division that manages personal wealth. So for some reason this bank, which has suffered repeated fines for helping to laundry Russian mob money, sees fit to take their (very dangerous) clients money and invest it in… Donald Trump? Why could that be? Well, as Josh Marshall points out, in virtually every other transaction representing $10K or more, there is some kind of obligation to report it to the feds. But in certain real estate transactions, that reporting obligation is waived.

    Here’s what it looks like
    – A non-real estate bank that has been associated with laundering Russian Mob money has been the only one lending Trump money for his real estate deals
    – Many of Trump’s deals are very odd, in that he offers nothing more than his name on the building, but gets up to 30% off the top, up front, with no risk on his part. As reported to (I believe) The Atlantic, this was a deal killer to at least one Russian hotel developer who commented that Trump asks for 30% and contributes nothing but his name whereas Hyatt or Hilton only wants 2-3% and can also be brought in to run the hotel. So adding “Trump” in big letters on the top of a hotel immediately raises the cost basis of each room by something like 50%? In what market is that sustainable? Why is this a sustainable business model in the US but not in Russia? Could it be because there is no need to launder Russian money used in Russia?

  8. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    If you aren’t still following the Roy Moore thread….Doug Jones just took the gloves off…

  9. the Q says:

    May I add to Mr. Reynold’s list:

    8) Trump realizes that running for POTUS will help him financially with the Russians and because he thought he had zero chance of winning, he could clean up his bad loans, get some PR for his other businesses, then ride off into the sunset when Hillary won without having to answer any questions since no one would care.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    Assuming that there is something very damaging in Trump’s finances, which seems a safe bet, I don’t see how he doesn’t try to shut down Mueller. I wonder if he’ll order Sessions to fire him on the grounds that Sessions is recused from matters pertaining to Russia, but not from matters pertaining to Trump’s finances. A thin legal argument, but it might delay things considerably as it winds through courts. What else can he do?

    Getting Cox fired ended up doing Nixon no good, as Jaworski continued to doggedly pursue the investigation. But Sessions, with a Trump friendly congress, might get away with appointing a toady.

    As Booman has pointed out, let’s not forget that this didn’t start as a criminal investigation. It started as a national security investigation. That means that Mueller may not care that the Logan Act is kind of toothless, he may have more serious charges in mind. It also means that he’s not fishing. The outlines of the case were handed to him by US and foreign security agencies, and Steele. We know Flynn lied about his call to Kislyak because his phone was tapped.

  11. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    A thin legal argument, but it might delay things considerably as it winds through courts.

    Who is going to take it to court? Paul Ryan? Mitch McConnell? That’s fvcking laughable.
    This is not the Watergate era…when some politicians actually put country before party. The US was still a great country then, and the rule of law meant something.
    That country is no more…

  12. CET says:

    @michael reynolds:

    As I’ve said from the beginning, follow the money. (Not an original quote from me.)

    This is where we find out if the ‘Trump is playing n-dimensional chess’ folks are right, once and for all. If there really is nothing (which seems unlikely, verging on impossible), then Trump makes all of his enemies look stupid by leading them on a goose-chase by doing things that look suspicious but don’t actually cover anything up. It would be an expensive, unnecessarily destructive goose-chase, but I don’t see him as sparing any expense to screw people he doesn’t like. And it would buy him 3-7 more years of using the ‘fake news’ excuse any time someone says something bad about him.

    If there is something at the bottom of this, then Trump is pretty stupid. Like ‘how does he manage to dress himself in the morning’ stupid. If his people hadn’t lied on their FBI forms, or he hadn’t fired Comey, the whole thing probably would have blown over. Laying down ‘red lines’ for the investigation is like when your kid hides the broken vase under the couch and start shouting ‘don’t look under the couch!’ when you walk into the room….

  13. CET says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Who is going to take it to court? Paul Ryan? Mitch McConnell? That’s fvcking laughable.

    We’ll see. At some point, even old lizard-face himself will start to consider whether or not the GOP would be better off with Pence in the Whitehouse. If it were me, I’d be looking at ways to get the whole mess settled in time to remove Trump and give Pence a year or so to get settled before the 2020 election.

    I think the deciding factor is more about politics than law though. If 2018 is a wave election for the Democrats, then GOP congressmen might start really worrying that Trump’s approval rating is about the same as the percentage of people who believe the earth is flat. If 2018 goes fine for the GOP, then Trump could probably order the Russian flag raised over the Whitehouse and they wouldn’t care.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan: @the Q:

    I was in Cyprus researching a book (hear that, IRS? It’s all deductible.) and discovered an interesting thing: Cyprus is ass-deep in jewelry stores specializing in diamonds. Why diamonds? Because you can stuff one hell of a lot of diamonds into a tube of toothpaste before flying home to Moscow or on to London.

    Bank of Cyprus was one, big Russian money-laundering operation for a while. They claim they cleaned up their act, but I rather doubt it. Cyprus is run by the Greek Orthodox church, they are the biggest property owners on the island. Now, who might want to make donations to the Cypriot Church? Why, their co-religionists, Russian Orthodox. I doubt the church would want to choke off the cash flow. There are a bunch of new, dramatic, very well-kept churches on Cyprus.

  15. Raoul says:

    Today’s fake outrage is about the cost of the investigation so far. Gowdy spent $7.8 million on the bogus Benghazi report. Trump blows millions on golf. But this investigation costing money is a huge “oh, noes!”

    I just hope there are plans in the works for *massive* civil disobedience if Trump tries to fire Mueller. The GOP has to understand that their careers are over if they acquiesce to a blatant move like that.

  16. JohnMcC says:

    Good time to toss out the little tip that moveon-dot-org is pre-registering and RSVPing crowds who pledge to immediately hit the streets upon the firing of Mr Mueller.

    (My links often fail, BTW. Leaves me virtually illiterate in this modern age. You all know what to do.)

  17. CSK says:


    Actually, Trump could raise the Russian flag over the White House and the Trumpkins would be fine with it. They love Putin; he’s a good Christian strongman who hates homosexuals. What could be better?

    Maybe I should start calling them the Trumpkinskys.

  18. charon says:


    That means that Mueller may not care that the Logan Act is kind of toothless, he may have more serious charges in mind.

    Maybe the Logan Act isn’t used because the circumstances where it could be a factor are very unusual – like the current situation.

    Seth Abramson explains:

  19. Tyrell says:

    Mueller had already crossed the “red line” in the amount of time and money spent on this theme park circle ride he’s on (7 million dollars first five months). He would be better off trying to find the “Lost Dutchman’s Mine”.
    What is being ignored is the far reaches and implications of this: the internet , email, texts, phone calls, book records, blogs, and private activities of the private citizens that just happen to be looked at during these political investigations? Who protects and watches out for us? Are our holiday get together discussions being watched – through our cell phones, cable boxes, or pc’s? Are church sermons and church records being looked at? Certainly the media isn’t going to look out for the people. Is anything now private?
    What I am saying here may not make much sense on the surface, but it is on my thoughts and concerns. It may well be not what it seems.
    “Who’s monitoring the monitors?” (“Enemy of the State”)
    Read “Masters of Deceit” by J. E. Hoover

  20. Senyordave says:

    If Trump fires Mueller, can Mueller be hired as a consultant for the NY AG? I’m being somewhat facetious, but Trump has no authority on state charges, and the NY AG is not someone he can fire or intimidate. I would think money laundering, if it happened, would have occurred in NY.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    Riiiiight, Tyrell. You can tell there’s nothing to this by the way Trump is losing his sh!t. That’s the sure sign there’s nothing to it.

  22. Guarneri says:

    “She confirmed that the news reports [that] the special counsel had subpoenaed financial records related to the president are completely false,” Sanders said during the daily press briefing.

    “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources. I think this is another example of the media going too far and too fast and we don’t see it going in that direction.”

    You fools.

  23. Guarneri says:

    Meanwhile, back in the real world……..

    Despite being interviewed by Strzok, and claiming they knew nothing about HRC’s server (and Mills claiming she didn’t even know what a server is – snicker) the email has surfaced in which Mills is questioning Abedin if HRC’s server is “safe.”

    Liars. Criminalization of politics.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    Hah! I should have made a public bet. I figured you’d toddle along – you’re anxiety-driven. Mention of Trump’s finances worry you because you’ve guessed he’s dirty as fwck. So you whistle past the graveyard.

    Don’t bother denying it, we both know it’s true.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    According to the folks at TPM, US law specifically forbids a bank from telling the subject of a subpoena that it exists or that they have turned over records. So Trump has no way of knowing. Sending out his critters to deny it means nothing and is only meant to a) calm Donald down, as he may be as stupid as his supporters and, like them, may take comfort in such chatter, and b) provide talking points for a Fox News types.

  26. Modulo Myself says:


    I’lll go with a). Even Trump’s dumbest confidantes have to be worried about firing Mueller. They’re playing for time, hoping for a magic trick that will somehow explain away the fact that he’s a conduit for Russian money. But firing Mueller–deep down they know how guilty this looks but they will be on record defending it.

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I seem to recall saying here that this investigation would inevitably lead to his finances, and that when it did you’d all finally start to get an idea of the magnitude of the problems I’m debarred by ethics from telling you about.

    Stay tuned, folks, and while you’re at it, start educating yourselves about RICO.

  28. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    3) Suddenly Deutsche Bank has a bunch of money to offer Trump. Whose money? Russian money. What kind of Russian money? Not the clean kind.

    Truthfully, no. Deutsche’s Private Bank division is truly that desperate to drum up business. They’ll break bread with just about anybody. They’re the red-headed stepchild / low man on the totem pole of the PB world. It’s honestly sort of pathetic.

    The Russian & Ukrainian money (and there is a great deal of it) arrived / arrives by a much more direct route.

    They buy space & units. Lots and lots of space & units in properties that Trump actually has an ownership stake in (as opposed to the ones that are just branded), and only those properties, at ridiculous prices. There are other pathways in play as well, but can’t go into any more detail than that.

    To answer the question you just formulated in your head, it will establish what you’re just now thinking that it will establish.

    Like I said, stay tuned. This investigation is finally in the arena where it needs to be.

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:


    According to the folks at TPM, US law specifically forbids a bank from telling the subject of a subpoena that it exists or that they have turned over records.

    The short answer to that is: it depends.

    RFPA requires that a banking customer generally must be notified when his/her records are obtained under subpoena, however 12 U.S. Code § 3409 explicitly permits the government authority, upon the satisfaction of certain conditions, to make application to the court granting the subpoena that notification be delayed for a period of up to 90 days. If the court agrees, it concurrently issues a gag order to the financial institution(s) debarring them from informing the client or any other parties about either the disclosure of the records or the existence of the request. The entire process is conducted ex parte and normally in camera.

    These orders can be extended for additional 90 day periods, essentially indefinitely, upon the approval by the issuing court of subsequent applications for delay, and in certain circumstances can be issued indefinitely.

    31 U.S. Code § 5318 also provides for gagging the respondent bank, but it limits the summons power extended to the Secretary to delegate as he/she may find necessary to civil enforcement of specific subsections of the US Code.

    They have the right idea over at TPM, but the wrong statute. In this case, the relevant statutes would more likely be 18 U.S. Code § 1956-1957.

    Bob Mueller will want to attack the criminal possibilities first, so his team would petition a federal court ex parte & in camera for the applicable subpoenas and the relevant gag orders. From there, they gain the ability to build a concurrent civil case as well. It gets him both outcomes – criminal conviction AND civil forfeiture (with the potential ability to apply RICO enhancements).

  30. HarvardLaw92 says:


    The bank(s) in question would be forbidden to confirm:

    1) that a subpoena even exists
    2) that any information, and the character of that information, had been supplied, and
    3) that a request had even been made for it

    You’re essentially saying that I should believe a Gambino when he tells me that his bank records haven’t been subpoenaed, when he’d be the last person in the world to know about it.

    At least until the indictment gets handed down 🙂

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Is there a RICO equivalent at the NY or NJ level?

  32. Tyrell says:

    @Modulo Myself: Who is supervising Mueller? Who makes sure that these investigators do not operate with unlimited activity? That is what I would like to know. It just seems like they can go and do as they please. I am just an average Joe out here.

  33. DrDaveT says:


    Who is supervising Mueller? Who makes sure that these investigators do not operate with unlimited activity?

    The Law.

    You know — the same Law that you always side with when the question has to do with shooting citizens, or rooting out terrorists.

  34. Guarneri says:

    You fools.