Trump Doesn’t Think Strategically. He Thinks Theatrically

As Trump gears up for his big July 4th bash, critics are slamming the president for politicizing the national holiday with the event, which includes military tanks lined up on National Mall, flyover jets, fireworks and a speech from Trump on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Colonel Jack Jacobs and Bloomberg View Executive Editor Tim O’Brien join Yasmin Vossoughian to discuss.

I’ve Seen Trump’s Tax Returns and You Still Haven’t

Remember back in early 2016 when Donald Trump, who was still regarded as something of a long shot for the presidency, promised he would disclose his tax returns publicly – just like every other candidate had done voluntarily since 1973? “I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” Trump said on “Meet the Press.”

The “next period of time” turned out to mean “never.”

Once Trump became skittish about releasing his returns he landed on one recurring reason for why he couldn’t put them out there, as forever memorialized when he was asked about his taxes during a presidential debate.

“As far as my return, I want to file it, except for many years, I’ve been audited every year,” he said in Houston on Feb. 25, 2016. “Twelve years or something like that. Every year, they audit me, audit me, audit me.”

An audit doesn’t prevent anyone from releasing their tax returns. If they really want to, they can go right ahead. Richard Nixon — RICHARD NIXON — released his tax returns when he was being audited. And it is extremely rare, also bordering on never, for someone to be audited several years in a row, much less 12. So maybe Trump hasn’t been entirely forthright about his audits. But who knows? When asked during one interview why he thought he had been targeted, he gave a faith-based response. “Well, maybe because of the fact that I’m a strong Christian, and I feel strongly about it, maybe there’s a bias,” he once offered.

In the end, Trump, who regards disclosure of his tax returns as a financial form of open-heart surgery, decided that people should just stop bothering him. “I’m worth more than $10 billion by any stretch of the imagination. Has tremendous cash. Tremendous cash flow. You don’t learn much from tax returns,” he told “Meet the Press” several months before Election Day in 2016. “But I would love to give the tax returns. But I can’t do it until I’m finished with the audit.”

All that talk of an audit may have put Trump in a corner. On Wednesday night, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee asked the Internal Revenue Service to release six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns, attributing their request to Congress’s oversight role. Representative Richard Neal, chairman of the committee, said he was making the request precisely because he wanted to make sure that the IRS was properly auditing Trump.

Trump has already said he isn’t inclined to release his tax returns in accordance with Neal’s request, so this is certain to ignite a legal battle. In the interests of good government and the avoidance of financial conflicts of interest in the Oval Office, I hope Congress wins this one. And I know, for a fact, that it’s not true that you don’t learn much from a tax return. As I noted back in early 2016, I have seen Trump’s tax returns, and I think you should too.

Trump unsuccessfully sued me in 2006 for libel over a biography I wrote called “TrumpNation,” citing unflattering sections of the book that examined his business record and wealth. He lost the suit in 2011, and during the litigation he was forced to turn over his tax returns to my lawyers.

As I noted in 2016, I think there are five broad categories of disclosure related to his returns that should matter to voters, politicians, and anyone else interested in making sure the White House is conflicts-of-interest free.

1) Income: The returns would offer a gauge of how financially robust the president’s businesses actually are and how much of that money flows to him.

As I noted in 2016, I think there are five broad categories of disclosure related to his returns that should matter to voters, politicians, and anyone else interested in making sure the White House is conflicts-of-interest free.

1) Income: The returns would offer a gauge of how financially robust the president’s businesses actually are and how much of that money flows to him.

2) Business Activities: Trump has always said that the Trump Organization employs thousands and that U.S. companies shouldn’t relocate overseas and take jobs away from U.S. workers. Tax returns would offer a view of Trump’s global footprint and provide a clearer sense of the size and scope of his company.

3) Charitable Giving: Trump has often bragged about being a dedicated philanthropist. If that’s true, his returns would prove it.

4) Tax Planning: The president uses a lot of shell companies, or LLCs, as part of his business and personal dealings. Some wealthy people have also used shell companies overseas to mask their fortunes and hide the money from authorities. Trump’s returns would show how actively he has used tax havens, if at all.

5) Transparency and Accountability: This may be the most important category of all. Trump is now, arguably, the most powerful and influential man in the world. His tax returns would provide a much clearer picture of potential financial conflicts or pressures that would come to bear on him in the White House. They would also provide a way of monitoring whether the president is more interested in his financial self-interest and deal-making than policy-making.

Neal has only requested six years of Trump’s returns, which is, I think, regrettable. Some of the transactions that may interest investigators the most took place around 15 years ago, when Trump, suddenly flush with cash, went on a shopping spree. He

  • bought and developed golf courses,
  • launched a new hotel and condominium in Chicago, and
  • deepened his involvement with the Trump SoHo Hotel in lower Manhattan.

It is still curious to me how Trump, who always used to finance his transactions with debt, raised the funds to do all that in the mid-2000s and pay cash. To find out, Neal will have to dig deeper than six years ago.

A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God: Trump’s History With Deutsche Bank

At Deutsche Bank, Mr. Offit’s mandate was to lend money to big real estate developers, package the loans into securities and sell the resulting bonds to investors. He said in an interview that one way to stand out in a crowded market was to make loans that his rivals considered too risky.

In 1998, a broker contacted him to see if he would consider lending to a Wall Street pariah: Mr. Trump, who was then a casino magnate whose bankruptcies had cost banks hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr. Offit took the meeting.

A few days later, Mr. Offit’s secretary called him. “Donald Trump is in the conference room,” she whispered. Mr. Offit said he rushed in, expecting to find an entourage. Mr. Trump was alone.

He was looking for a $125 million loan to pay for gut renovations of 40 Wall Street, his Art Deco tower in Lower Manhattan. Mr. Offit was impressed by the pitch, and the loan sailed through Deutsche Bank’s approval process.

Mr. Trump seemed giddy with gratitude, Mr. Offit recalled. He took Mr. Offit golfing. He flew him by helicopter to Atlantic City for boxing matches. He wrote a grateful note to Sidney Offit for having “a great son!”

Mr. Offit commissioned a detailed model of 40 Wall Street. A golden plaque on its pedestal bore the names and logos of Deutsche Bank and the Trump Organization. Mr. Offit gave one to Mr. Trump and kept another in his office.

Mr. Trump soon came looking for $300 million for the construction of a skyscraper across from the United Nations headquarters. The loan was approved. He wanted hundreds of millions more for his Trump Marina casino in Atlantic City. Mr. Offit pledged to line up cash for that, too.

Not long after, Edson Mitchell, a top bank executive, discovered that the signature of the credit officer who had approved the Trump Marina deal had been forged, Mr. Offit said. (Mr. Offit was never accused of forgery; the loan never went through.)

Mr. Offit was fired months later. He said it was because Mr. Mitchell claimed that he was reckless, a charge Mr. Offit disputed.

It was the first hiccup in the Trump relationship. It would not be the last.

Over the next few years, the commercial real estate group, with Mr. Kennedy now in a senior role, kept lending to Mr. Trump, including to buy the General Motors building in Manhattan. Occasionally, Justice Kennedy stopped by Deutsche Bank’s offices to say hello to the team, executives recalled.

At an annual pro-am golf tournament the bank hosted outside Boston in the early 2000s, Mr. Trump sat down for a recorded interview with the bank’s public relations staff, who asked about his experience with Deutsche Bank.

“It’s great,” Mr. Trump exclaimed, according to a person who witnessed the interview. “They’re really fast!”

In 2003, a Deutsche Bank team led by Richard Byrne — a former casino-industry analyst who had known Mr. Trump since the 1980s — was hired to sell bonds on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. Bank officials escorted Mr. Trump to meet institutional investors in New York and Boston, according to an executive who attended.

The so-called roadshow seemed to go well. At every stop, Mr. Trump was greeted by large audiences of fund managers, executives and lower-level employees eager to see the famous mogul. The problem, as a Deutsche Bank executive would explain to Mr. Trump, was that few of them were willing to entrust money to him.

Mr. Trump requested an audience with the bank’s bond salesmen.

According to a Deutsche Bank executive who heard the remarks, Mr. Trump gave a pep talk. “Fellas, I know this isn’t the easiest thing you’ve had to sell,” the executive recalled Mr. Trump saying. “But if you get this done, you’ll all be my guests at Mar-a-Lago,” his private club in Palm Beach, Fla.

The sales team managed to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bonds. Mr. Trump was pleased with the results when a Deutsche Bank executive called, according to a person who heard the conversation.

“Don’t forget what you promised our guys,” the executive reminded him.

Mr. Trump said he did not remember and that he doubted the salesmen actually expected to be taken to Mar-a-Lago.

“That’s all they’ve talked about the past week,” the executive replied.

Mr. Trump ultimately flew about 15 salesmen to Florida on his Boeing 727. They spent a weekend golfing with Mr. Trump, two participants said.

A year later, in 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts defaulted on the bonds. Deutsche Bank’s clients suffered steep losses. This arm of the investment-banking division stopped doing business with Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Trump told Deutsche Bank his net worth was about $3 billion, but when bank employees reviewed his finances, they concluded he was worth about $788 million, according to documents produced during a lawsuit Mr. Trump brought against the former New York Times journalist Timothy O’Brien. And a senior investment-banking executive said in an interview that he and others cautioned that Mr. Trump should be avoided because he had worked with people in the construction industry connected to organized crime.

Nonetheless, Deutsche Bank agreed in 2005 to lend Mr. Trump more than $500 million for the project. He personally guaranteed $40 million of it, meaning the bank could come after his personal assets if he defaulted.

By 2008, the riverside skyscraper, one of the tallest in America, was mostly built. But with the economy sagging, Mr. Trump struggled to sell hundreds of condominium units. The bulk of the loan was due that November.

Then the financial crisis hit, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers sensed an opportunity.

A provision in the loan let Mr. Trump partially off the hook in the event of a “force majeure,” essentially an act of God, like a natural disaster. The former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan had called the financial crisis a tsunami. And what was a tsunami if not a natural disaster?

.. One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Steven Schlesinger, told him the provision could be used against Deutsche Bank.

“It’s brilliant!” Mr. Schlesinger recalled Mr. Trump responding.

Days before the loan was due, Mr. Trump sued Deutsche Bank, citing the force majeure language and seeking $3 billion in damages. Deutsche Bank countersued and demanded payment of the $40 million that Mr. Trump had personally guaranteed.

With the suits in court, senior investment-banking executives severed ties with Mr. Trump.

.. Ms. Vrablic’s superiors encouraged her to make loans that rival banks dismissed as too large or complex. They saw it as a way to elbow into the hypercompetitive New York market.

.. One of Ms. Vrablic’s clients was Jared Kushner, who married Ivanka Trump in 2009. Mr. Kushner regarded Ms. Vrablic as the best banker he had ever worked with, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

Shortly after the Chicago lawsuit was settled, Mr. Kushner was told that Mr. Trump was looking for a loan and introduced him to Ms. Vrablic, according to people familiar with the relationship.

.. Mr. Trump flew Ms. Vrablic to Miami to show her a property he wanted to buy: the Doral Golf Resort and Spa. He needed more than $100 million for the 72-hole property.

Deutsche Bank dispatched a team to Trump Tower to inspect Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate financial records. The bankers determined he was overvaluing some of his real estate assets by as much as 70 percent, according to two former executives.

.. By then, though, Mr. Trump had become a reality-TV star, and he was swimming in cash from “The Apprentice.” Deutsche Bank officials also were impressed that Mr. Trump did not have much debt, according to people who reviewed his finances. Aside from his history of defaults, he was an attractive borrower.

Mr. Trump also expressed interest in another loan from the private-banking division: $48 million for the same Chicago property that had provoked the two-year court fight.

Mr. Trump told the bank he would use that loan to repay what he still owed the investment-banking division, the two former executives said. Even by Wall Street standards, borrowing money from one part of a bank to pay off a loan from another was an extraordinary act of financial chutzpah.

.. Investment-banking executives, including Anshu Jain, who would soon become Deutsche Bank’s co-chief executive, pushed back. Lending to Mr. Trump again would be foolish, they argued, and signal to clients that they could default and even sue the bank.

Executives in the private bank countered that the proposed loans had Mr. Trump’s personal guarantee and therefore were low risk. And the Chicago loan, they noted, would lead to the repayment of tens of millions of dollars that Mr. Trump still owed the investment-banking division.

A top executive with responsibility for the private bank discussed the loans with Mr. Ackermann, the chief executive, who supported them, according to two officials. A powerful committee in Frankfurt, which evaluated loans based on risks to the bank’s reputation, signed off.

“There is no objection from the bank to proceed with this client,” wrote Stuart Clarke, the chief operating officer for the Americas, in a Dec. 5, 2011, email, according to a recipient.

Deutsche Bank wired the money to Mr. Trump. The loans carried relatively low interest rates, executives said, but the business promised to be profitable: As part of the deal, Mr. Trump would hold millions of dollars in a personal account, generating fees for the bank.

“I have no recollection of having been asked to approve that private-banking loan,” Mr. Ackermann said in an interview. He added: “I would have approved it, if it came to me, if it was commercially sound.”

Ms. Vrablic’s relationship with the Trumps deepened.

Deutsche Bank lent money to Donald Trump Jr. for a South Carolina manufacturing venture that would soon go bankrupt. It provided a $15 million credit line to Mr. Kushner and his mother, according to financial documents reviewed by The Times. The bank previously had an informal ban on business with the Kushners because Jared’s father, Charles, was a felon.

In 2012, Jared Kushner recommended that the editor of The Mortgage Observer, one of the publications he owned, write a profile of Ms. Vrablic. The editor, Carl Gaines, knew Mr. Kushner was her client and objected, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

“Just go meet with her,” Mr. Kushner said. “You’ll figure something out.”

gauzy profile of Ms. Vrablic was published in February 2013.

Shortly afterward, the private bank produced a promotional video featuring some of its marquee clients. The video was played at a retreat for Deutsche Bank’s senior leadership in Barcelona. In it, Ivanka Trump extolled the private bank’s work with her family and thanked their relationship manager, according to two people who saw the video.

.. In early 2014, Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, approached Ms. Vrablic about more potential loans.

The owner of the Buffalo Bills had died, and the N.F.L. franchise was up for sale. Mr. Trump was interested, and he needed to show the league he had the financial wherewithal to pull off a transaction that could top $1 billion.

Mr. Trump asked Ms. Vrablic if the bank would be willing to make a loan and handed over bare-bones financial statements that estimated his net worth at $8.7 billion.

.. Mr. Cohen testified to Congress last month that the documents exaggerated Mr. Trump’s wealth. Deutsche Bank executives had reached a similar conclusion. They nonetheless agreed to vouch for Mr. Trump’s bid, according to an executive involved.

Mr. Trump’s bid did not win, but another lending opportunity soon arose.

A federal agency had selected Mr. Trump to transform the Old Post Office Building in Washington into a luxury hotel. But his financial partner — the private equity firm Colony Capital, run by Thomas J. Barrack Jr. — pulled out. Mr. Trump needed nearly $200 million.

.. Because of his decades-long pattern of defaults and his increasingly polarizing political rhetoric — among other things, he had been spreading a lie about President Barack Obama being born overseas — Mr. Trump remained untouchable for most banks.

Ms. Vrablic was willing to help.

In a memo outlining the rationale for the Old Post Office loan, Ms. Vrablic said Mr. Trump was expected to add large sums to his brokerage account if he received the loan, according to an executive who read the document.

This time, there was less internal opposition. One reason: Mr. Jain — by then the bank’s co-chief executive — had a solid relationship with Ms. Vrablic. Mr. Jain accompanied her to meetings with high-profile clients, and he praised her work to colleagues, multiple executives said.

..On a foggy Wednesday in February 2013, Ms. Vrablic and Mr. Jain went to Trump Tower to meet with Mr. Trump, according to two executives with knowledge of the meeting. Ms. Vrablic’s rapport with the client was immediately clear: Mr. Trump’s assistant greeted her as an old friend, and she seemed relaxed with Mr. Trump and his daughter, one executive said.

.. They discussed Mr. Trump’s finances over lunch, and Mr. Jain said he was surprised by his low level of debt, the executives said. After lunch, Ms. Vrablic told her colleagues that Mr. Jain had sounded upbeat about Mr. Trump’s finances.

A $170 million loan to pay for the overhaul of the Old Post Office went through in 2015, and Mr. Trump added more money to his brokerage account. (In May 2016, he reported up to $46 million of stocks and bonds in the account.)

.. On Aug. 6, 2015, Mr. Trump participated in the first Republican presidential debate. He clashed with the Fox News moderator, Megyn Kelly. He flew back to New York early the next morning. That evening, he called in to a CNN talk show and said of Ms. Kelly that there was “blood coming out of her wherever.”

In the intervening hours, Mr. Trump had used a black Sharpie to sign documents for another loan from Deutsche Bank: $19 million for the Doral resort. That brought to more than $300 million the total lent under Ms. Vrablic.

.. On the campaign trail, rivals assailed Mr. Trump’s financial history. In response, he pointed to Deutsche Bank-funded successes like the Old Post Office project, now a gleaming hotel a few blocks from the White House.

.. In early 2016, Mr. Trump asked Ms. Vrablic for one final loan, for his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland.

.. Ms. Vrablic said yes, but a fight soon erupted.

Jacques Brand, who was in charge of Deutsche Bank’s American businesses, angrily objected, partly because of Mr. Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

Ms. Vrablic appealed the decision. Senior executives in Frankfurt, including Christian Sewing, who would become chief executive in 2018, were shocked that the private bank would consider lending Mr. Trump money during the campaign, bank officials said.

The bank’s reputational risk committee killed the transaction in March 2016.

.. That same month, as The Times was preparing an article about Mr. Trump’s excommunication from Wall Street, he cited his warm relationship with Deutsche Bank.

.. “They are totally happy with me,” he said to The Times. “Why don’t you call the head of Deutsche Bank? Her name is Rosemary Vrablic. She is the boss.”

.. After Mr. Trump won the election, Deutsche Bank’s board of directors rushed to understand how the bank had become the biggest lender to the president-elect.

A report prepared by the board’s integrity committee concluded that executives in the private-banking division were so determined to win business from big-name clients that they had ignored Mr. Trump’s reputation for demagogy and defaults, according to a person who read the report.

The review also found that Deutsche Bank had produced a number of “exposure reports” that flagged the growing business with Mr. Trump, but that they had not been adequately reviewed by senior executives.

.. On Deutsche Bank’s trading floor, managers began warning employees not to use the word “Trump” in communications with people outside the bank. Salesmen who violated the edict were scolded by compliance officers who said the bank feared stoking public interest in its ties to the new president.

One reason: If Mr. Trump were to default on his loans, Deutsche Bank would have to choose between seizing his assets or cutting him a lucrative breaka situation the bank would rather resolve in private.

.. Two years after Mr. Trump was sworn in, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. The chamber’s financial services and intelligence committees opened investigations into Deutsche Bank’s relationship with Mr. Trump. Those inquiries, as well as the New York attorney general’s investigation, come at a perilous time for Deutsche Bank, which is negotiating to merge with another large German lender.

Next month, Deutsche Bank is likely to start handing over extensive internal documents and communications about Mr. Trump to the congressional committees, according to people briefed on the process.

Ms. Vrablic, who is intensely private and rarely discusses her personal life with colleagues, declined to comment. People familiar with her thinking said she expected to be called to testify publicly on Capitol Hill.

Trump distorts the truth and uses intimidation tactics to maintain his image.

Maintaining the public image of a powerful and flawless businessman is difficult. And since Trump’s success depends, in large part, on his facade, he’ll do almost anything to defend it.

This defense has often involved suing or threatening to sue any journalist who publishes or intends to publish something that questions the veracity of his claims or the prudence of his actions.

Even if he knows he can’t win a particular lawsuit, the threat of one still scares off many publishers and journalists who either lack the funds to deal with the legal fees involved or dread the thought of years of arbitration.

Trump is especially defensive about the image of his vast wealth, which is why he sued Timothy O’Brien, the author of TrumpNation. Trump wants the media to believe that his net worth is in the billions, but, based on documents he personally showed to O’Brien, it would seem he’s actually worth somewhere between $150 and $250 million.

For years, O’Brien was bogged down by the lawsuit, which was eventually dismissed. Trump wasn’t displeased with the outcome, however, and he even admitted that the real goal of the lawsuit was to make O’Brien’s life miserable. So, in that regard, the lawsuit was a success for Trump.

Trump has also become a master of deflecting any facts that might contradict the image he nurtures.

Here’s a good example: during his campaign for president, in an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, Trump was asked about his court testimony in 1991, when he confessed to posing as John Baron and John Miller.

At first, Trump simply lied and claimed that this was the first time he’d ever heard about such a thing. But when the host pressed him about it, Trump expertly deflected the inquiry by questioning its legitimacy and suggesting that even asking about a 25-year-old incident was below the dignity of a journalist.

As we can see, Trump has a unique way of handling facts, which we’ll explore further in the next blinks.

‘I like them very much:’ Trump has long-standing business ties with Saudis, who have boosted his hotels since he took office

For President Trump, Saudi Arabia is not just a political ally. It has also been a customer.

Trump’s business relationships with the Saudi government — and rich Saudi business executives — go back to at least the 1990s. In Trump’s hard times, a Saudi prince bought a superyacht and hotel from him. The Saudi government paid him $4.5 million for an apartment near the United Nations.

Business from Saudi-connected customers continued to be important after Trump won the presidency. Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Just this year, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported significant upticks in bookings from Saudi visitors.

Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump told a crowd at an Alabama campaign rally in 2015. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.

The Trump Organization issued a statement Thursday saying that although it has pursued new hotel deals in Saudi Arabia in the past, it has no current plans to do so.

.. Saudi royalty has been buying from Trump dating to 1995, with some of the deals coming during periods when Trump was in need of cash.

.. In 1991, when Trump was nearly $900 million in debt from failed casino projects, he sold his 281-foot yacht to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal for $20 million.

.. A few years later, the prince bought a stake in Trump’s Plaza Hotel by agreeing to pay off some of Trump’s debts on the property.

.. Tim O’Brien, a journalist who wrote the 2005 biography “TrumpNation,” said these deals were one-sided — in the prince’s favor. He said Trump was in dire financial straits, so the prince got a good price.

.. But there was no indication, back then, that Saudis wanted to curry favor with Trump by giving him a better deal, O’Brien said. “Talal saw him as a profit center,” he said, “not as somebody who he was cultivating as a future president.”

.. In 2001, Trump sold the 45th floor of his Trump World Tower, in New York, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $4.5 million.

.. More recently, Prince Nawaf bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud acquired what would become a 10,500-square-foot triplex apartment in a Trump building on the west side of Manhattan. Nawaf sold it in February for $36 million.

.. During Trump’s presidential campaign, he also seemed to be exploring plans to build a hotel in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city, part of an international expansion plan. In August 2015 — two months after he got into the race — Trump established eight new shell companies that included the name “Jeddah.”

.. The names of those corporations — four of which also included the word “hotel” — seemed to indicate Trump was planning a hotel in the city.

.. Since Trump won the presidency, Saudis have been patrons of three of his 11 Trump-branded hotels.

.. In early 2017, a lobbying firm working for the Saudi Embassy reported spending $270,000 on food and lodging at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington. The rooms were used to house people visiting Washington to lobby against a law that the Saudi government opposed — a law that allows victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi government.

.. the general manager at Trump’s hotel on Manhattan’s Central Park West

.. One major reason, General Manager Prince A. Sanders wrote: “a last-minute visit to New York by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Sanders told the investors that the Trump hotel’s Saudi guests did not include Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself because the hotel did not have a suite large enough to suit him. But, he said, “due to our close industry relationships, we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers.”

.. Saudi bookings at Trump Chicago had gone from 81 “room-nights” in the first half of 2016 to 218 in the first half of this year — an increase of 169 percent. (In the same time frame, bookings from Saudi Arabia’s rival Qatar increased 1,633 percent, from three “room-nights” to 52).

Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

.. Investigators were also looking for any records related to adult-film star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both received payments after alleged affairs with Trump.

.. Legal experts said Cohen’s taped conversations would be viewed by prosecutors as highly valuable.

“If you are looking for evidence, you can’t do any better than people talking on tape,” said Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor.

Such recordings “would be considered a gold mine,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who specializes in legal ethics.

“The significance is 9.5 to 10 on a 10-point scale,” he added, noting that investigators know “that when people speak on the phone, they are not guarded. They don’t imagine that the conversation will surface.”

Federal investigators would not automatically get access to any tapes that might have been seized in the raids. First, the recordings would be reviewed by a separate Justice Department team and possibly by a federal judge.

.. Cohen wanted his business calls on tape so he could use them later as leverage, one person said. Cohen frequently noted that under New York law, only one party had to consent to the taping of a conversation, this person added.

During the 2016 race, Cohen — who did not have a formal role on the campaign — had a reputation among campaign staff as someone to avoid, in part because he was believed to be secretly taping conversations.

.. One outside Trump adviser said Cohen may have begun recording his conversations in an attempt to emulate his boss, who has long boasted — often with no evidence — about secretly taping private conversations.

.. “Back in the early 2000s, Trump used to tell me all the time that he was recording me when I covered him as reporter for the New York Times,” O’Brien wrote.

.. But after Trump sued him for libel shortly after his biography came out, O’Brien’s lawyers deposed Trump in December 2007 — during which Trump admitted he had not, in fact, clandestinely taped O’Brien.

“I’m not equipped to tape-record,” Trump said in the deposition. “I may have said it once or twice to him just to — on the telephone, because everything I said to him he’d write incorrectly; so just to try and keep it honest.”

From Mueller to Stormy to ‘emoluments,’ Trump’s business is under siege

People who have sued the Trump Organization in the past said it has been unusually fierce in fighting document requests. “We got, in five years of litigation, what should have been done in less than a year,” said Daniel King.

.. In 2006, Trump sued reporter Tim O’Brien for defamation after O’Brien reported that Trump’s net worth was far less than the billions he had claimed. As part of the litigation, O’Brien sought internal Trump documents — including the businessman’s tax returns — in an effort to establish Trump’s actual assets and income.

“The first time that they gave us the tax returns back, it looked like a crossword puzzle, because so much had been redacted,” O’Brien said. In one case, he said, “the only line item that was showing was [Trump’s wife] Melania’s modeling income, which we had no interest in knowing about.”

The case was ultimately dismissed, and O’Brien did not get the information he sought.

“Trump’s problem from the beginning has been a willingness to mix business with governance, and not to make a sharp distinction between the two,” said George D. Brown, a law professor at Boston College. “Well, it’s conceivable that this lawsuit, if it proceeds down a certain path, will force him to rethink that.”