Politico Silently Edits False Story on Trump Being Indebted to Chinese Bank - And It's Still Wrong


The idea that Donald Trump is in the pocket of the Chinese is a curious one. If he is, Beijing got quite a raw deal on the whole matter. Their ROI hasn’t exactly been stellar.

However, last week Politico reported that the president was indebted to a major Chinese bank to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, something the subheadline stated could “complicate his attacks on Biden.”

The problem is that none of it was true — and when the outlet went to correct it, they didn’t really bother to actually correct anything substantive.

The article began with Trump’s charge that if Joe Biden becomes president, “China will own the United States.”

“But Trump himself has taken on debt from China. In 2012, his real estate partner refinanced one of Trump’s most prized New York buildings for almost $1 billion. The debt included $211 million from the state-owned Bank of China — its first loan of this kind in the U.S. — which matures in the middle of what could be Trump’s second term,” the article read.

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“Steps from Trump Tower in Manhattan, the 43-story 1290 Avenue of the Americas skyscraper spans an entire city block. Trump owns a 30 percent stake in the property valued at more than $1 billion, making it one of the priciest addresses in his portfolio, according to his financial disclosures.”

According to the Politico article, the president is indebted to the Bank of China and has been since 2012. That’s a pretty major conflict of interest, particularly given the fact that the president has taken a tough line on trade with China and has been hard on the government in Beijing when you consider the fact that their mismanagement has led to a global crisis.

The problem is that the story isn’t true.

“The Washington, DC, based media company falsely reported Friday that Trump owes millions to the Bank of China for a loan financing a building located at 1290 Avenue of the Americas. The story said that the president would have to pay tens of millions of dollars to the state-controlled banks because the loan was coming due shortly, a situation which it described as ‘unprecedented,’” Breitbart reported.

Should Politico retract their reporting?

“President Trump is not the debtor and Bank of China is not the creditor on the loan to 1290 Avenue of the Americas. Trump is the minority partner in a real estate deal that owns the building, had nothing to do with arranging the loans, and is not liable for their repayment. Bank of China was one of a consortium of lenders in 2012 that provided $950 million but sold its interest days later when the loan was repackaged into bonds for investors.”

Furthermore, the Bank of China issued a statement in which they made it clear Trump didn’t owe them scads of money.

“On November 7, 2012 several financial institutions including the Bank of China participated in a commercial mortgage loan of $950 million to Vornado Realty Trust,” said Peter Reisman, the Bank of China U.S.A. managing director and chief communications officer.

“Within 22 days, the loan was securitized and sold into the [commercial mortgage-backed securities] market, as is a common practice in the industry. Bank of China has not had any ownership interest in that loan since late November 2012.”

However, Politico reported the Bank of China was still listed as a creditor on the property. This is hardly unusual, considering it’s one of the largest investors in commercial real estate in the United States.

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The headline originally said that “Trump owes tens of millions to Bank of China” — later changed to “owed” — even though the entity that owed money to the Bank of China was a Vornado controlled trust. Trump is merely a passive investor.

Furthermore, China’s interest in the loans had ended years ago — and they had only had an interest in the loans for a matter of days until they were packaged as securities.

Was there any mention of this? No. In fact, corrections weren’t to be seen almost anywhere in the story, which was substantively the same as it was in its initial version.

So what do we have instead? The idea that this amorphous deal could muddy the water for Trump and make it impossible for him to attack Biden on China.

This is patently false. Trump’s record on China speaks a lot more loudly than any loan the president doesn’t really have anything to do with, anyhow. It has nothing to do with whether or not Trump can hit Biden on being soft on China.

As for how the edits were done, this note was included before the story:

“This article and headline were updated to include comment from the Bank of China and additional reporting.” That there were substantive changes wasn’t mentioned.

The article is still wrong and goes to prove nothing. Its primary point is entirely incorrect. But, it made good copy, and that’s all that matters.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture