I'm not sure if these are related or not, but I keep coming back to Adam Schiff's discussion earlier this week and again today of what the House Intelligence Committee would investigate after Democrats take over the majority. Schiff specifically mentioned money laundering as a focus, saying they would not revisit the topics already investigated, much to the disappointment of those who wanted Devin Nunes squashed like a bug. But it could be that Schiff was signaling something.
Today, two things happened which may or may not be related.
First, German police raided Deutsche Bank in connection with money laundering exposed in the Panama Papers.
"Police officers and tax inspectors entered Deutsche Bank's headquarters in Frankfurt early Thursday morning and seized documents," reports NPR. "Prosecutors are investigating two employees of the bank who allegedly assisted customers in setting up offshore firms to avoid anti-money laundering safeguards when transferring money to accounts at Deutsche Bank."
Apparently the raid concerns 900 customers who took advantage of these offshore arrangements as outlined in the Panama Papers. It's impossible to ignore the fact that Deutsche Bank was the single bank that stood by Donald Trump when all the others bailed. It's also impossible to ignore the fact that Paul Manafort maintained offshore accounts where he was stashing Russian money and using it to fund his lavish lifestyle.
Executive Editor Timothy O'Brien, writing for Bloomberg Opinion, explains:
Trump's relationship with Deutsche briefly soured in a dispute over the Chicago project. When the financial crisis landed in 2008 and imperiled that development, Trump sued Deutsche to avoid paying the $40 million he had guaranteed (claiming, in part, that Deutsche was responsible for the global economic distress unleashed by the crisis). A clash like that can permanently unwind a real estate partnership, but Deutsche and Trump agreed to settle, with the bank extending a loan from its private banking division to allow Trump to pay back its real estate lending unit, according to the New York Times.
Deutsche's private banking arm has hung in there ever since, with Rosemary Vrablic as the Deutsche banker serving as Trump's primary liaison there. She also has helped Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a White House adviser, as well as his mother, arrange multimillion-dollar loans and lines of credit at Deutsche. In recent years, Deutsche's private banking unit has loaned Trump money — about $300 million, according to Bloomberg News and Trump's government financial disclosure forms — for such projects as his Washington hotel and the Trump National Doral golf course.
Oh. Chicago! Well, the second thing to happen today happens in Chicago and happens to relate to a person connected to Trump and Trump Tower in Chicago.
The feds raided the offices of Chicago Alderman Edward Burke, who worked on Trump property tax matters for 12 years or so, but quit in 2018. In 2017, Burke filed a lawsuit to try and force the city to waive $14 million in taxes on Trump Tower Chicago.
We don't know anything about the nature of today's raid. The Feds showed up, told everyone to leave, and put brown paper on the windows to block reporters from seeing what they were doing. When a reporter knocked on the door, a man opened it and said, "No comment."
To summarize, these things have happened this week:
- Robert Mueller blew up Paul Manafort's cooperator agreement, calling him a liar. Part of Manafort's crimes include money laundering and failing to report payments from Russians Manafort stashed in offshore accounts.
- Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress, admitting that negotiations for Trump Tower Moscow were ongoing even after Trump won the Republican nomination.
- German police closed in and raided Deutsche Bank in relation to the investigation of a huge money laundering operation where employees set up offshore accounts to launder funds on behalf of wealthy clients. Deutsche Bank is Trump's go-to lender, loaning money for Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. and Trump Tower in Chicago, among others.
- Chicago Alderman Edward Burke's offices were raided. Burke worked with Trump to mitigate property taxes on Trump's Chicago property.
Are they related or are they coincidental? I don't know. But it sure seems like there must be a bigger picture here that we just can't quite see. Yet.
Oh, here's a tweet from Trump that locks things in a bit:
UPDATE: According to the Chicago Tribune, Burke's law offices were not raided, which suggests the Chicago raid is somehow related to his duties as alderman.
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