FRANKFURT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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 that key documents had been handed over in the meantime.
Deutsche Bank has lent the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures and is one of the few major lenders that has given large amounts of credit 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.
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 election and Trump has said there was no collusion with Moscow.
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.
A source close to Deutsche Bank said the bank had run checks on Trump’s financial dealings with Russia.
During his election campaign, Trump said he would seek to improve ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which were strained during President Barack Obama's administration.
There was no immediate response to the Deutsche Bank subpoena from Trump's lawyers.
The subpoena was earlier reported by German daily Handelsblatt.
During a photo opportunity with senators at the White House, Trump declined to answer shouted questions from reporters about whether Mueller had crossed a line by asking Deutsche Bank for information.
In a July 9 interview with the New York Times, Trump said Mueller should not extend his investigation into Trump's finances if they were not directly related to the Russia accusations.
Asked if delving into his and his family's finances unrelated to the Russia probe would cross a red line, Trump replied, "I would say yeah. I would say yes."
The president declined to say what he would do if Mueller began such an examination, but he continued, “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
Deutsche Bank earlier this year rebuffed efforts by Democratic U.S. lawmakers to get more information on its dealings with Trump as well as any information it may have about whether the Republican, his family or advisers had financial backing from Russia.
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.
Trump and Deutsche Bank have not always been on good terms. Trump sued the bank and other lenders in 2008, demanding $3 billion in damages, claiming they broke agreements in the construction and financing of a Chicago hotel.
Deutsche Bank countersued and the two sides eventually settled.
Internal Deutsche Bank documents seen by Reuters feature the names of Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his wife, Kathleen, in a series of client profiles.
Deutsche declined to confirm if the Manaforts were clients or if it had received a subpoena from Mueller for information on them.
A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.
In October, Manafort pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy against the United States. The charges were brought as part of Mueller's investigation.
In January, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay $630 million in fines for organising $10 billion in sham trades that could have been used to launder money out of Russia.
Deutsche Bank has settled several probes into the so-called mirror trades but a settlement has yet to be reached with the U.S. Department of Justice, which is still conducting an investigation.