Newly revealed financial records show Trump owed millions to state-owned bank in China: report

Trump claims China would "own" the U.S. if Biden wins, but he has his own questionable ties

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published April 24, 2020 11:33AM (EDT)


This article has updated to include comment from the Bank of China and new reporting from Politico.

President Donald Trump owed tens of millions to a state-owned Chinese bank, according to financial records obtained by Politico.

Trump has claimed that "China will own the United States" if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election, but the report reveals that the president at least at one point owed tens of millions to the Bank of China.

That is the same bank that Trump linked to a $1.5 billion investment plan announced by Biden's son Hunter in 2013, days after both Bidens traveled to China.

"Why did the Chinese government's bank want to do business with Hunter Biden while his dad was Vice President," the Trump campaign asked on Twitter earlier this month. His campaign also pushed the issue in a campaign ad.

After the report was first published, the Bank of China denied that it was owed millions by the president. In a statement, the bank said it sold off the debt years earlier.

"On Nov. 7, 2012, several financial institutions including the Bank of China participated in a commercial mortgage loan of $950 million to Vornado Realty Trust," the statement said. "Within 22 days, the loan was securitized and sold into the CMBS market, as is a common practice in the industry. Bank of China has not had any interest in that loan since late November 2012."

Politico reported that documents filed in 2017 still listed the bank as a creditor to the New York City Department of Finance. 

"The Bank of China could not explain why its name was listed on the 2017 document, describing it as 'technical error,'" the outlet wrote. "Trepp, a database of securitized mortgages, also listed the Bank of China along with the three other banks, in a description on their site about the financing of the building. The site noted the Bank of China might securitize their portion of the loan, although there were no additional comments."

The bank cited another 2012 document showing that the debt had been assigned to another institution.

On Monday night, Politico published another update, reporting that "Wells Fargo on Monday confirmed the Bank of China's statement that it had been listed as a creditor on the building in error. Bank of China said Wells Fargo is taking steps to correct the record with an updated filing."

Trump's debt stems from his 30% ownership stake in a 43-story New York skyscraper at 1290 Avenue of the Americas, the documents show. Trump has bragged that he "got" the building from China in a "war."

"I beat China all the time," he said when he announced his presidential campaign in 2015. "I own a big chunk of the Bank of America building [in San Francisco] and 1290 Avenue of the Americas that I got from China in a war. Very valuable. I love China."

But The New York Times reported in 2016 that Trump only owned 30% of both buildings. And Trump's financial ties to the country do not end with his ownership stake in the building. Chinese state-owned companies are developing two luxury Trump buildings in Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. The president and his daughter, Ivanka, have also been granted numerous trademarks by the Chinese government since he took office. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has sought Chinese investment in at least one real estate deal.

"We actually explored all these foreign enterprises and how once he became president he'd be seen differently by foreign leaders who would have leverage over this president, because he had investments in their countries and/or financial dealings with business enterprises and financial institutions and investors in their countries," Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who sits on the House Oversight Committee, told Politico. "He is highly conflicted with respect to China."

Though Trump has denied any conflicts of interest, he has also refused to divest from his company. While Trump is considered a passive investor in the New York skyscraper, he is on the hook for tens of millions after the Vornado Realty Trust, the building's primary owner, refinanced the building for $950 million in 2012. The debt included a $211 million loan from the Bank of China, the first loan of its kind in the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal. Vornado's federal filings showed that it and Trump are still in debt and the loan is due in 2022.

Government watchdogs said the report showed that Trump remains deeply conflicted because of his continued ownership of his company.

"While Trump is talking about the former vice president's son financial dealings, in Trump's case, it is the president himself who has a company he still owns and profits from that has financial relationships with the countries that he is supposed to be negotiating with on behalf of the American people," Robert Maguire of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Politico. "There are definitely legitimate questions that are raised by Hunter Biden's actions. They are not even in the same ballpark as the conflict of interest questions raised by President Trump's continued relationship with his own company."

The Trump campaign told the outlet that Trump's debt is completely different from Hunter Biden's dealings.

"There is an obvious difference between Donald Trump working as a successful businessman as a private citizen and Hunter Biden using his name to cash in with a $1.5 billion investment from a state-controlled Chinese bank while his father was vice president," campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

George Mesires, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, rejected the allegation. He told the outlet that Biden's business partners received $4.2 million from a group of investors in China in a private equity deal — not the $1.5 billion the investment firm said was its goal in the deal.

Mesires added that Biden did not conduct any business when he visited China with his father but did meet with a Chinese businessman later tapped to lead the investment venture. Biden did not participate in the deal until he acquired a 10% financial stake for $420,000. Biden announced he was stepping down from the investment firm last year.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate China Donald Trump Ivanka Trump Jared Kushner Politics Trump Organization