The bank that props up Trump’s shaky finances

The bank that props up Trump’s shaky finances

David Enrich writes:

One Day in early 2017, Mike Offit went to the Yale Club in Manhattan for a lunch hosted by a group called Business Executives for National Security. Offit, who has a craggy face and shoulder-­length hair, had spent much of his career in banking, but that had ended nearly two decades earlier. Since then, he had puttered around the outskirts of finance, dabbled in journalism and even published a novel about a pair of murders at a fictional German-­owned Wall Street bank that bore a striking resemblance to the one that he worked for until 1998: ­Deutsche Bank.

These days, Offit had time on his hands, which is how he found himself at the Yale Club that afternoon. Slanting winter sunlight illuminated the white-­columned walls of the club’s dining room. Offit was chatting with an American military officer about weaponry when his iPhone buzzed. He saw an email from the White House Executive Office of the President. How strange, Offit thought.

The message contained a PDF file: a scanned printout of an email he had sent Donald Trump several months earlier, in the waning days of the presidential campaign. Offit had known Trump for decades. At ­Deutsche Bank, he had lined up huge loans to finance Trump’s construction and renovation of landmark Manhattan skyscrapers, at a time when the default-­prone real estate developer and casino magnate was no longer able to get loans from most mainstream financial institutions. The two men stayed in touch afterward. Offit’s 2014 book, “Nothing Personal,” even featured a blurb from Trump: “Michael Offit offers a colorful insight into how the big money is made — and/or taken — on Wall Street.”

In October 2016, Offit tried to return the favor. Democrats were pillorying Trump’s shaky — not to mention murky — personal finances, including his companies’ chronic bankruptcies. Offit thought he might dispense a little advice to his erstwhile client. On a Friday evening, he emailed Trump a lengthy message, explaining that the defense Trump was offering at the time — that he was simply using the bankruptcy law in an advantageous way — wasn’t resonating with voters. “I believe there is a much better answer, that may help defuse this issue, and am just arrogant enough to suggest it,” Offit wrote.

He advised Trump to claim that his companies had been forced to declare bankruptcy, the victims of greedy hedge funds so obsessed with wringing every last dollar out of him that they refused to let him renegotiate his crushing debts. Was this true? Not really. But it sounded good, and the line of attack meshed with Trump’s populist rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Offit got no response. He wasn’t even sure that Trump had read the email. But here, months later, was Trump’s unmistakable black Sharpie scrawl across the top of the message he had sent: “Mike — Such a cool letter. Best wishes, Donald.”

“Look at this!” Offit exclaimed to the officer. “I just got a note from the president!”

“What do you mean, you got a note from the president?”

Offit handed him the iPhone so he could see for himself. The man’s eyes widened. “Wow,” he said. “That’s more of a response than we can get out of him.” [Continue reading…]

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