- MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell made a bombshell claim on his show Tuesday night about Donald Trump’s taxes, only to report later in his show that the allegation is unverified
- O’Donnell reported that a lone source told him that Russian oligarchs co-signed loans that Trump received from Deutsche Bank
- The story would confirm Democrats’ theories about Trump business links to Russia. But O’Donnell said at the end of his show that NBC had not been able to verify the claim
- The White House shot back Wednesday, saying that MSNBC had “little regard for the truth”
On his MSNBC show Tuesday night, host Lawrence O’Donnell dropped a potential bombshell about President Trump’s taxes, only to acknowledge later in his broadcast that the report will need “a lot more verification.”
O’Donnell opened his show with his possible scoop, hyping it during an exchange with Rachel Maddow, who hosts the show prior to O’Donnell’s.
“I want to get your reaction to it now, because I don’t want you to leave the building,” said O’Donnell, seemingly eager to impress his colleague.
“This single source close to Deutsche Bank has told me that Donald Trump’s loan documents there show that he has co-signers. That’s how he was able to obtain those loans, and that the co-signers are Russian oligarchs,” O’Donnell said.
Maddow, who has opened many a show with salacious and unverified Trump scoops of her own, appeared floored by the news.
“What?” she replied.
Earlier on Tuesday, Deutsche Bank, which has done business with Trump for years, strongly indicated in court filings that it has possession of Trump’s taxes. House Democrats have sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One, which has also worked with Trump, for Trump tax documents and other financial records. Trump and members of his family have sued to block the banks from releasing the documents.
O’Donnell’s report, if accurate, would support Democrats’ longstanding theory that Deutsche Bank holds the clues to any illicit links between Trump and Russia. Democrats and MSNBC hosts like O’Donnell and Maddow have suggested that Trump has financial links to Russian, which might make him beholden to powerful oligarchs, or even Vladimir Putin.
But O’Donnell added new details to his reporting at the end of his show. In addition to reiterating that it was based on a single source close to Deutsche Bank, O’Donnell said that his own network had not verified the information. He also said that he had not seen any documentation to back up the source’s claim.
“As I said at the beginning of this hour, and I want to say this carefully: a source close to Deutsche Bank revealed to me — a single source close to Deutsche Bank — that Donald Trump’s tax returns show that he pays very little income tax. And more importantly, that his loans with Deutsche Bank have Russian co-signers,” O’Donnell said.
“I want to stress, that’s a single source. This has not been confirmed by NBC News. I have not seen any documentation from Deutsche Bank that supports this and verifies this. This is just a single source who has revealed that to me.”
“It’s going to need a lot more verification before that can be a confirmable fact.”
An MSNBC producer for “Morning Joe” said on Twitter on Wednesday morning that NBC was unable to verify O’Donnell’s story, and that the source had not seen the underlying documents.
Deutsche Bank is declining to comment on Lawrence O’Donnell’s reporting that Russian oligarch’s co-signed Trump’s loans. The information came from a single source who has not seen the bank records. NBC has not seen those records and has not yet been able to verify the reporting.
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) August 28, 2019
Trump has long denied that he has business ties to Russia. The former real estate mogul partnered with the billionaire Agalarov family to host the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. Trump has also tried several times to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump’s tax attorneys, Sheri Dillon and William Nelson, said in a March 8, 2017 letter that Trump’s tax returns do not show any income from Russian sources, or that he owed any interest to Russian lenders, or that any Russians held equity states in Trump’s companies.
The letter did not address whether any Russians have co-signed Trump loans. Dillon did not respond to a request for comment. Trump’s lawyers, Marc Mukasey and William Consovoy, also did not respond to a request for comment about O’Donnell’s claim.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham blasted O’Donnell’s report in a statement to Fox News on Wednesday.
“This is one of the reasons that a majority of Americans have lost trust in the media. Instead of applying ethics and standards to their reporting, journalists and left-wing outlets have weaponized the media, using it to attack and harass people with little to no regard for the truth,” she said.
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