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Donald Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank is back in the news. Once again, it’s incredibly disturbing:

Donald J. Trump was burning through cash.

It was early 2016, and he was lending tens of millions of dollars to his presidential campaign and had been spending large sums to expand the Trump Organization’s roster of high-end properties.

To finance his business’s growth, Mr. Trump turned to a longtime ally, Deutsche Bank, one of the few banks still willing to lend money to the man who has called himself “The King of Debt.”

Mr. Trump’s loan request, which has not been previously reported, set off a fight that reached the top of the German bank, according to three people familiar with the request. In the end, Deutsche Bank did something unexpected. It said no.

The reason why Deutsche turned down the loan needs to be read at least twice to process intellectually:

Senior officials at the bank, including its future chief executive, believed that Mr. Trump’s divisive candidacy made such a loan too risky, the people said. Among their concerns was that if Mr. Trump won the election and then defaulted, Deutsche Bank would have to choose between not collecting on the debt or seizing the assets of the president of the United States.

This is the sort of quandary that bankers in the pre-modern era had to manage in making loans to fickle kings and potentates. It is distressing and embarrassing that we’re talking in this context about the president of the United States.

More to the point, it reinforces the smoke and mirrors nature of Donald Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial existence. Trump’s populist appeal hinged, in part, on being so wealthy that he knew all the loopholes and couldn’t be bought or corrupted. But there is little indication that Trump has anything like the sort of money he professes to have. Billionaires don’t write out $70,000 cash bribes in monthly installments. People with the resources of a Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg don’t need to take out a loan if they spend a comparatively paltry $30 million or $40 million of their own money on a vanity political project. They just write out the check and think nothing of it.

Honest rich people also don’t have trouble getting loans even if they do require them. Banks are happy to lend to them because they’re guaranteed to get their money back plus a big interest payment. But even before running for president, Donald Trump was well-known in the banking community as such a high default risk that none but Deutsche Bank would lend to him–and even they wouldn’t do it in 2016 because they figured they might not ever be able to recoup it if he actually won the presidency.

As for Deutsche Bank, it’s worth remembering that Robert Mueller’s team is actively investigating the company, which was forced to pay a hefty fine for laundering $10 billion in money from Russian oligarchs connected to Putin. While no one can prove anything yet, dark insinuations have abounded about the connections between the Trump Organization, Deutsche Bank, Trump’s strangely unprofitable money sinkholes like Turnberry golf course, and Russian money laundering. But not even Deutsche Bank would step in for Trump in 2016.

For someone of Trump’s stature to fail to secure a loan is remarkable, an indication that he both lacks the moral character to repay his debts and adequate assets to offer as collateral to seize in case of default.

It’s theoretically possible that Trump actually has the money he claims to have, and that every bank in the world refuses to lend to him even as he refuses to release his tax returns or let anyone look at his books. Or it’s possible that the President of the United States is a fraud, a man with significant debts to shady characters who is illegally using the presidency to balance his books by taking bribes from wealthy donors and foreign powers.

Until the public can see his tax returns and some proof of his financial situation, we’ll never know for sure. But what we do know doesn’t look good.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.