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Is Trump Above The Law? The Supreme Court Is About to Decide

February 19, 2020

By Joe Rothstein

Since the U.S. Senate failed to convict him of what the House argued were impeachable offenses, President Trump has been behaving as if he is king of the hill. In one bizarre tweet he actually likened himself to a king. No one should be surprised.

Even before impeachment, at a federal appeals court hearing, Judge Denny Chin asked Trump’s lawyer about a statement Trump once made, that he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone without political fallout. What about the legal consequences of such an act, Judge Chin asked? “Local authorities couldn’t investigate? Nothing could be done? That’s your position?”

“That is correct,” said Trump’s lawyer. “That is correct.”

Is it correct? We will find out soon. The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments on March 31 for a trio of cases testing Trump’s argument that he is above the law. Three federal courts already have rejected Trump’s claim of total immunity. Presidents Nixon and Clinton also argued that a sitting president cannot be investigated. Both lost those cases before the Supreme Court. If the Roberts Court affirms those precedents, the floodgates will open to a cascade of events and revelations that could shape the political environment of the 2020 election.

In the balance are the release of Trump’s tax returns, his business records, green-lighting of a New York D.A.’s case against Trump for criminal violations in the Stormy Daniels hush money scandal (he’s already “Individual-1” there, aka unindicted conspirator) and, potentially, revelations about his ties to Russian banks, oligarchs, and mafia figures.

Trump has been fighting for years to keep all of this from public view, particularly his association with Deutsch Bank. When Trump’s credit was toxic, back in the 1990s, it was Deutsch Bank that came to his rescue. Deutsch Bank underwrote billions of dollars to help Trump finance his buildings. Deutsch also steered billions more to Trump from Russian oligarchs wanting to move money into safer western markets, particularly real estate. Over the years, Deutsch Bank has paid huge financial penalties for manipulating foreign currencies, misleading regulators, and laundering money into and out of Iran, Syria and other countries despite international sanctions. Deutsch Bank is widely regarded as the “bad boy” of international finance.

The relationship between Deutsch Bank and the Trump organization is particularly bizarre because the bank kept loaning Trump money even as he was defrauding them. According to the New York Times, When Trump applied for a loan to finance the Chicago tower, he told the bank he was worth more than $3 billion. A Deutsch Bank study found he actually was worth $788 million. The bank loaned him $640 million anyway. Later, when he applied for a loan through Deutsch’s private banking division, Trump claimed his property in Westchester County was worth $291 million, even though he purchased it for $7 million.

Deutsch Bank did more for Trump than business banking. A New York Times investigation found that Deutsch Bank created “special purpose vehicles” to keep Trump’s financial information hidden from regulators and to use other investors’ capital to make deals for him in Eastern Europe and South America. The bank also sold stakes in Trump properties to other clients and managed hundreds of millions of dollars of Trump’s personal money.

The bank has a long paper trail that Trump has been fighting hard to keep secret. The ferocity of that fight tells you all you need to know about how damaging Trump believes these disclosures would be.

The New York Times has done a superb investigation into all of this. And just this week one of its business editors, David Enrich, published an even more detailed book about it, “Dark Towers.” Pay attention to the upcoming March 31 hearing and the Supreme Court’s decision to follow. If Trump loses there, his financial disclosures could become the centerpiece of the 2020 election.

(Joe Rothstein's new political thriller, "The Salvation Project, is now available through all on-line book sellers and most independent book stores. Rothatein can be contacted at jrothstein@rothstein.net)



Joe Rothstein is editor of U.S. Politics Today. His career in politics spans 35 years, as a strategist and media producer in more than 200 campaigns for political office and for many political causes. He was a pioneer in professional political consulting and one of the founding members of the American Association of Political Consultants. During his career Mr. Rothstein has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA.