Why House Dems Are Unfazed By Deutsche Bank's Snub on Trump-Russia Query

Maxine Waters isn't taking no for an answer.

The top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee recently received what she described as a non-response from Deutsche Bank AG (DB) to a letter she and four other lawmakers had penned seeking insight into its relationship with President Donald Trump.

"They basically acknowledged they have received our letter and that was it," Waters told TheStreet.

The California lawmaker has been working to obtain details on the Frankfurt-based bank's internal examination of its lending to Trump, including whether loans the bank made to Trump businesses were guaranteed by the Russian government or were in any way connected to Russia.

"We have to get all the information we can find about [President Trump] and his business relationships," she said. "It is extremely important, and I don't care where it comes from."

In addition to Waters, TheStreet interviewed three of the four other Democrats who signed the letter, all of whom said they weren't surprised that Deutsche Bank wasn't acting on their request.

They said that won't interfere with one of the letter's primary goals, which was to spotlight the issue as the Justice Department and Congressional committees investigate Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and whether the Kremlin coordinated with the Trump campaign.

In a short reply to Waters and the other lawmakers on June 8, Deutsche Bank said that it was prohibited from providing information about its customers by U.S. privacy laws, "even if the individual is a government official or well-known person." A bank representative declined to comment further., and a White House spokesman didn't respond to requests for comment.

Rep. Moore: 'You Have to Follow the Money"
Rep. Moore: 'You Have to Follow the Money"
Gwen Moore, Congresswoman

"We wanted to raise the profile of the issue for the intelligence agencies that are in fact right now looking at financial transactions," said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., one of the letter's signees.

The letter wasn't a voyeuristic attempt to find out whether President Trump paid taxes or used eligible loopholes, but an attempt to push investigators to take a closer look at Deutsche Bank transactions involving Trump businesses, she added.

"You have to follow the money," Moore said. "It was our obligation to raise the question. We're going to try and get an understanding of the issues even if we don't have subpoena power."

A key issue, Moore notes, involves sanctions on Russian companies and individuals, some of which were installed in the wake of the country's intervention in Ukraine and its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Moore points to a section of the letter raising concerns about a "mirror trading" scandal that allowed Deutsche Bank's Russian clients to convert rubles into dollars abroad.

"If we have sanctions in place in Russia, we have to know that people are not dealing with those banks outside of the framework of those sanctions," Moore said. "It is really important for our credibility and our democracy and place in the world."

Rep. Perlmutter: Full Probe Won't Happen Until Democrats Control House
Rep. Perlmutter: Full Probe Won't Happen Until Democrats Control House
Ed Perlmutter, U.S. Rep

The Democratic lawmakers say they hope the lack of response will put pressure on House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who has the authority to issues subpoenas to obtain documents, or to have Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan testify.  Hensarling's office didn't return a request for comment.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., another of the letter's signers, suggested Congress was unlikely to investigate the situation fully unless Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives.

"We want to understand the transactions between Deutsche Bank and the Trump Organization at large and the guarantees that may have occurred between Russia or Russian individuals and Deutsche Bank and the Trump administration," Perlmutter said. "As a minority party we write letters and make requests. When we win the majority we'll be able to investigate it fully."

Rep. Green: We Need to See the President's Tax Returns
Rep. Green: We Need to See the President's Tax Returns
Rep. Al Green, Democrat from Texas

Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, another signee, argued that the only way the public will be able to determine whether there was any "quid-pro-quo" between Russia and the Trump campaign is through the president's tax returns.

"That will give us all of the intelligence we need to go to these various other places like Deutsche Bank, where we may see some sort of quid pro quo," Green told TheStreet. "We can't find the quid pro quo easily without the tax returns. The president will eventually have to expose those tax returns."

Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, pointed to a $629 million fine against Deutsche Bank by U.K. and U.S. regulators in January, over compliance failures related to the mirror-trading. As a businessman, Trump turned to Deutsche Bank after U.S. lenders abandoned him in the wake of at least six bankruptcies, which were Chapter 11 reorganizations, she said.

"We have a lot of questions for Deutsche Bank," Waters said. "They are the only ones who would do business with [Trump]. We have had to impose great fines against Deutsche Bank. We look at them as a troublesome and problematic bank to begin with. They have gone to Russia and we want to know what role going to Russia played ... in any business opportunities that may have been presented to Trump."

Waters said that Deutsche Bank decided to conduct a review, in part, because Trump is an elected official. "They did take a deeper look and should know a lot about him and his family ties," she said.

Even if Democrats aren't able to get access to the Deutsche Bank data, it's possible that special counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director investigating claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, could.

"I don't know what [Mueller] would do with that, whether he would use it in some way to help him understand what the relationship is with Deutsche Bank and what Deutsche Bank knows about the Trump businesses," Waters added. "But I think the information is very important and is very key to understanding him and his relationships with Russia."

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