Van Hollen Calls on Sessions to Recuse Himself if Trump-Deutsche Bank Investigations Are Not Impartial
Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the ongoing investigations into Deutsche Bank's relationship with President Donald Trump, which one legal expert called "the biggest conflict that we know about in terms of dollar amounts and the scale of legal exposures."
"As the Attorney General with direct oversight of this investigation, I urge you to ensure that any investigations or negotiations with Deutsche Bank be done with complete impartiality," Senator Van Hollen wrote. "If you do not think this is possible, given the nature of the conflicts, I ask that you recuse yourself from these investigations and appoint an independent counsel."
Van Hollen also asked how the Department of Justice will deal with these Trump family financial conflicts of interest and if any of this was a factor in firing Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who had been investigating the ties between Trump and Deutsche Bank, as well as Russian money laundering at Deutsche Bank.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Attorney General Sessions,
I write to you with great concern regarding ongoing settlement negotiations and possible investigations of Deutsche Bank that are being undertaken by your office in the Southern District of New York.
The U.S. Department of Justice's office in the Southern District of New York had been engaged in settlement negotiations tied to Deutsche Bank's role in the mortgage crisis and in ongoing investigations of the bank on other matters. I understand one investigation into currency manipulation was closed. However, the fate of other investigations, including Russian money laundering, are uncertain since the firing of Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
One legal expert called the relationship between the President and Deutsche Bank "the biggest conflict that we know about in terms of dollar amounts and the scale of legal exposures." That same expert also said that it "may be impossible" to avoid the appearance of impropriety related to these obligations. Prior financial disclosures have listed two loans and two mortgages for which Deutsche Bank was the lender and the President was the borrower. These loans reportedly amount to roughly $340 million, with another $950 million extended to a venture in which the President owns a 30 percent stake.
As the Attorney General with direct oversight of this investigation, I urge you to ensure that any investigations or negotiations with Deutsche Bank be done with complete impartiality. If you do not think this is possible, given the nature of the conflicts, I ask that you recuse yourself from these investigations and appoint an independent counsel.
The American people deserve nothing less than complete impartiality and transparency during this investigation. In light of these unique circumstances, I ask that you provide the following information:
•Has the Department of Justice developed a formal policy with how it will handle any investigations concerning potential conflicts of interest between the President, his businesses or those of his family? Please share any formal policy your office has developed.
•Were any investigations of Deutsche Bank a factor when President Trump decided to fire former U.S. attorney Bharara, after initially telling him he could continue in his position during this administration?
If you choose not to recuse yourself, I ask that you provide written confirmation that you will exercise complete impartiality and will not interfere with the Southern District of New York's ongoing negotiations with Deutsche Bank.
I ask that you respond to these questions by April 3, 2017.
Thank you for your attention to this issue.
Chris Van Hollen
United States Senator
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