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Gareth Vaughan on why 'Mini Mike' should take Trump's debt off Deutsche Bank's hands, what happens if Trump tries to sue his way to victory, US states portrayed by photos, the chaotic unravelling of Jack Ma’s US$35 billion IPO and more

Gareth Vaughan on why 'Mini Mike' should take Trump's debt off Deutsche Bank's hands, what happens if Trump tries to sue his way to victory, US states portrayed by photos, the chaotic unravelling of Jack Ma’s US$35 billion IPO and more
Image: @ianbremmer, twitter.

This Top 5 comes from's Gareth Vaughan.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 5 yourself, contact

See all previous Top 5s here.

It has been quite a week in the US of A, what with the presidential election and everything associated with it. At the time of writing, Friday afternoon, the final outcome remains unknown. This Top 5 looks at the strange ongoing events in the United States of America, and includes a couple of extra items that caught my eye this week.


1) Why 'Mini Mike' should take Trump's debt off Deutsche Bank's hands.

Reuters reported this week Deutsche Bank is looking for ways to end its relationship with Donald Trump because it's sick of the associated negative publicity. Deutsche Bank reportedly holds about US$340 million in loans outstanding to the Trump Organization.

The three loans, which are against Trump properties and start coming due in two years, are current on payments and personally guaranteed by the president, according to two bank officials.

In meetings in recent months, a Deutsche Bank management committee that oversees reputational and other risks for the lender in the Americas region has discussed ways in which it could rid the bank of these last vestiges of the relationship, two of the three bank officials said. The bank has over the years lent Trump more than $2 billion, one of the officials said.

One idea that has come up in the meetings: sell the loans in the secondary market, two of the bank officials said. But one of the officials said that idea has not gained traction, in part because it is not clear who would want to buy the loans and the attendant problems that come with it.

The loans, which are against Trump’s golf course in Miami, and hotels in Washington and Chicago, are such that the Trump Organization has only had to pay interest on them so far, and the entire principal is outstanding, two of the three bank officials said. They come due in 2023 and 2024, the filings show.

The businesses backing the loans face challenges. The coronavirus-driven economic slowdown has hit the travel industry, including hotels. Moreover, last month Reuters reported that Trump’s plan to make money by developing houses and hotels on his golf courses, including the one involving the Deutsche Bank loan, had not panned out so far.

The suggestion that Deutsche Bank has considered selling the Trump loans in the secondary market is fascinating. David Chaston came up with a really interesting idea here. Billionaire and staunch Trump opponent Mike Bloomberg ought to make Deutsche Bank an offer to take the loans of their hands that the bank can't refuse.

The man Trump mocks as "Mini Mike" spent a truckload of money on a brief tilt at becoming the Democrat's presidential candidate, and more on ads for Joe Biden. The former New York mayor knows Trump and how he operates well. Imagine the fun he could have squeezing Trump if he held Trump's personally guaranteed debt?

Meanwhile David Yaffe-Bellany, writing for Mike Bloomberg's media empire, has detailed all the legal action Trump faces and what the impact of him vacating the White House could have on this.

“Whatever shelters he has had as an occupant of the White House would vanish,” says Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard and frequent Trump critic. “His ability to throw his weight around in terms of the deference that judges exercise—all of that is gone.”

A federal prosecution of Trump would be political dynamite, and a President Joe Biden may choose not to detonate it.

On this last point my sense is Biden, should he indeed become president and have influence over the matter, will probably choose not to throw the full force of the Federal Government at Trump. The reality is somewhere in the vicinity of 70 million Americans voted for the man, and it will be easier for the country to try and move on from his presidency if the Government isn't battling Trump in court. However, that doesn't mean state governments and individuals won't.

2) The Divided States of America.

There have been numerous attempts to come to grips with the election and what it means. In one of them George Packer of The Atlantic sees two countries, neither of which is going anywhere anytime soon.

We don’t yet know the outcome of the election, but its meaning is already clear. We are two countries, and neither of them is going to be conquered or disappear anytime soon. The outcome of the 2016 election was not a historical fluke or result of foreign subversion, but a pretty accurate reflection of the American electorate. 


Many of the most influential journalists and pollsters continue to fail to understand how most of their compatriots think, even as these experts spend ever more of their time talking with one another on Twitter and in TV studios. The local and regional newspapers around the country that could fill in the picture of who we are with more granular human detail continue to die out. All of us, professionals and otherwise, are to some extent prisoners of impermeable information chambers, in which the effort to grasp contrary narratives is morally suspect.

This destruction of the mental commons is potentially fatal to a democracy. Unlike citizens of geriatric autocracies, we lack the cynical habit of learning to live with lies that we don’t compel ourselves to believe are true. As newcomers, we’re suckers for mass disinformation—passionate believers in the most ludicrous stories, instant experts in seizing every piece of data as proof of our chosen truth. One of the winners on Election Night was Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a follower of the insane conspiracy ideology QAnon. She will sit in Congress alongside Democratic colleagues who, by her lights, engage in child sex trafficking.

Writing in his GZero newsletter, Ian Bremmer hit on a similar theme.

American democracy has suffered damage in recent years. The country remains deeply polarized. A narrow-margin presidential outcome and President Trump's unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud and demand for a halt to the vote count certainly won't change that. There's been a sharp deterioration in US public confidence in political leaders, lawmakers, and the media. Partisan responses to the pandemic have undermined faith in public health officials and expert institutions like the Centers for Disease Control.

The police murder of a Black man in May has further poisoned the attitudes of many citizens toward law enforcement, and the protests and violence that followed have heightened racial tensions and raised questions about the proper role of federal law enforcement — and even the military. The election has raised partisan doubts about the court system, including the integrity of vote-counting.

None of this is entirely new. Those of us old enough to remember Vietnam, Watergate, and the scandals of the Clinton presidency have seen public cynicism and political anger before. Many Americans on the right have mistrusted the media for decades, and many on the left have long vented anger about police. But the "filter bubble" in which both conservative and liberal Americans get their own sets of news and information about the world has sharply exacerbated conflicting views of American life. And today, unlike in the past, there are almost no domestic political issues on which Democrats and Republicans find common ground.


But the health of a democracy depends on public confidence in the political system and its institutions. The next president and Congress will have to do more than manage the next wave of the pandemic, help put Americans back to work, handle increasingly complex relations with China, promote greater equality of opportunity, and prepare the country to face future crises from unexpected directions. They'll also need to take actions that somehow persuade more Americans on the left and right that they live in the same country, and have more in common than they realize.

This morning, that hope looks more distant than it did 24 hours ago.

3) What happens if Trump tries to sue his way to election victory?

Writing for ProPublica, Ian MacDougall looks at the direction legal challenges to the election results may take. It could be a long road and evidence of wrongdoing and/or a convincing legal argument will actually be required.

One of the few certainties is that we will not see the instant Bush v. Gore replay that Trump seems to have in mind. A few hours after voting ended, in a 2 a.m. speech that drew bipartisan condemnation for the president’s premature declaration that he had won the election, Trump baselessly described the ongoing ballot count as “a fraud on the American public.” “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he told his supporters. “We want all voting to stop.” Trump is famously litigious, but he’s not a lawyer, and he seemed not to understand that apart from a small class of cases (largely territorial disputes between states), lawsuits don’t originate at the Supreme Court. The Trump campaign would have to file suit in a state or federal court and eventually appeal an adverse decision to the high court. Along the way, as the Pennsylvania court anecdote suggests, the Trump campaign would need to show evidence to back up his claim, and so far there’s no evidence of fraud in the ongoing ballot counts, which often run beyond election night. Tallying legitimate votes is not, despite the president’s tweeted claims, a form of fraud.

4)  How America has voted in every election since 1824.

Time has a fascinating interactive map of how Americans have voted over the years. (It's here).

Electoral maps dating back decades reveal a lot about political change in the U.S. as the country grew and two dominant political parties emerged. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump won the Electoral College tally by taking traditionally Democratic states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

For some presidents, elections ended in landslide wins. Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt won the 1936 election with 523 electoral votes, while his opponent Alfred M. Landon received 8. Decades later, the country turned almost entirely red, when incumbent Republican candidate Ronald Reagan carried 49 of the 50 states, with 525 electoral votes. He was the second candidate to do so, following Richard Nixon, who took 520 electoral votes in the 1972 election.

5) Each US state portrayed by one photograph (or two).

I stumbled across this recirculating on social media post-election, even though it's a few months old. It's from a website called ParentsDome and features some entertaining and funny photos. A couple of them are below. Try and guess which state they represent and then click through from this link to find out and see the others.

6) The chaotic unravelling of Jack Ma’s US$35 billion IPO.

Big, big news out of China this week was the pulling of the plug by Chinese authorities on the US$35 billion initial public offering of Jack Ma's fintech giant Ant Group at the eleventh hour. Bloomberg delves into this. And it seems even Ma, China's richest man, can't get away with criticising the country's government.

Ma, a former teacher who’s widely revered in China, faced an unusual amount of criticism in state media after he slammed the country’s financial rules for stifling innovation at a conference in Shanghai on Oct. 24. His remarks came after Vice President Wang Qishan -- a Xi confidante -- called for a balance between innovation and strong regulations to prevent financial risks.

“It appeared that, intentionally or not, Ma was openly defying and criticizing the Chinese government’s approach to financial regulation,” Andrew Batson, China research director at Gavekal Research, wrote in a report.

The weekend before Ma was summoned to Beijing, the Financial Stability and Development Committee led by Vice Premier Liu He stressed the need for fintech firms to be regulated.

For those organising the highly anticipated IPO its cancellation really did come as a bolt out of the blue.

On Tuesday, confusion over the suspension triggered a flood of calls to Ant’s bankers from baffled money managers. The sense of whiplash in some cases was stark: Just an hour or two before the suspension was announced, Ant’s investor relations team was still trying to confirm attendance at a post-IPO gala in Hong Kong. One of the company’s biggest foreign investors predicted the episode could do lasting damage to confidence in China’s capital markets.

7) Is Goldman Sachs 1MDB settlement: a meaningful punishment for major financial crimes?

Writing for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Spencer Woodman looks at the US Department of Justice's settlement with Goldman Sachs over the investment bank's role in a massive bribery scheme that syphoned hundreds of millions from IMDB, Malaysian public coffers. Goldman Sachs agreed to pay nearly US$3 billion to authorities in various countries, and agreed to its Malaysian subsidiary pleading guilty to conspiring to violate US bribery laws. But is the penalty stern enough?

In its action against Goldman, U.S. authorities used a controversial tool called a deferred prosecution agreement, or DPA, in which an offending firm pays a fine and agrees to a period of probation in order to avoid the potentially ruinous prospect of being criminally prosecuted.

Critics say that the U.S. legal system’s increasing reliance on DPAs to address financial crime reflects its softness on corporate executives, who can often safely assume that they will not face jail time for white-collar misconduct.


What stands out about the DPA to Brandon Garrett, a law professor at Duke University who has extensively studied corporate prosecutions, is the size of the fine: he says it looks surprisingly small. U.S. prosecutors, according to Garrett, took a number of steps favorable to Goldman in calculating the fine, including deducting penalties the bank had paid foreign regulators from its own fine.


Garrett said that the U.S. portion of the fine was “far below” the federal guidelines on what the government could have fined Goldman for the massive theft it admitted to aiding. Garrett says that federal prosecutors granted Goldman “credits” for favorable behavior during the investigation – although “it isn’t exactly clear what that credit was for.” The DPA states that Goldman had only partially cooperated with law enforcement during the investigation. At points, the bank dragged its feet on providing key information and failed to self-report FCPA breaches that it knew had occurred, according to the filing.

“Self-reporting is incredibly important,” Garrett said. “There should be an identifiable consequence for failing to self-report. Here, I don’t think there was.”

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Interesting that the networks haven’t actually called the election result after 3 days.

That's because individual states have different ways of doing this. Some count early votes early, others do not and count them later. Rules around postal voting vary from state to state. It is NOT against the law, each state is operating under its own law
It is slow going now in these last states as it is so close and those doing the job are going at quite a slow pace, so as to try to eliminate mistakes.
Any that end up close probably should be recounted.
Donald Trump is away in Lala land asserting that some votes are legal and others are not. It is looking like the tack he is taking was planned all along, by his attempting to delegitimize postal voting from the outset, knowing full well there would be places they would be counted last. I am really surprised there are still people not astute enough to see through him tbh

There has never been a 4 day delay over 6 states before.
80% to 100% Biden batches are surely suspicious in the postal votes.

There also has been a pandemic raging causing many, many more people to postal vote.

When people turn out in much larger numbers it nearly ALWAYS favours the left (see NZ). It's amazing that can even happen in the States with how many ways of doing things there lead to voter suppression, starting with voting on a Tuesday which limits many people's ability to vote and lack of polling booths forcing people to queue for many, many hours in order to carry out their right to vote. If the US were to make it far easier for people to cast their vote the Rethuglicans would probably be history. (I make no apology for calling them that, because this term, that is exactly what they showed themselves to be)

Not really, President Trump instructed his supporters not to vote by post so...they probably didn't.

More interesting that they called Arizona 2 days ago. Seems pretty clear there has been no voter fraud but the media has certainly seriously and unethically influenced the election far more than Russia, China or anyone else.
I still doubt there will be any serious violent street protests when Biden inevitably wins. Although if Trump had prevailed I think things would have got incredibly ugly.

Knock, knock ..."It's Mini Mike at the door, Donald. He wants to put the squeeze on you with that debt he's just bought from Deutsche."
Laughing reply: "Fair enough. Ring Steve Schwarzman and get him to drop a check off to Mike will you"

No one ( including the place I worked at the time) wanted to lend to/refinance Trump in the '80s with his Atlantic City mess - but someone did; they always do when profit is concerned. Little different to Murdoch, when his media ship hit the rocks, and yet here he is; probably the biggest player in all of this election stuff.

Thing is the 'jig is up!' Everyone is now aware that Trump is in massive debt to the tune of over $1 billion. And then there's all the lawsuits he'll be facing once he's pushed out of office. So for Deutsche Bank to get back their $340 million in loans outstanding to the Trump Organization they'll need to be first in the queue to liquify his assets.

Forbes article: Donald Trump Has At Least $1 Billion In Debt, More Than Twice The Amount He Suggested.

"Everyone" already knew that! Show me any multi-billionaire who doesn't have debt to match - it's how the tax system works. We call it Negative Gearing in essence, and show me any property investor here who either doesn't have it or doesn't know how it works! Do you reckon Sir John Key doesn't have any debt, for instance?

It's debt traps and tax dodging like negative gearing that are putting tax systems under stress, which is why they're being removed. Hang on to your hat BW remember you'll have to pay your creditors at some stage.

I'm unusual ( in so many ways!); I don't have net debt. I haven't since 1983 - and that's probably why I'm not a billionaire like some of the guys are that I competed against at the time.

Yeah I paid off my mortgage on our million dollar home a few years ago and don't have any debts either. I honestly don't know how people with massive amount of debt like Trumps can sleep at night. Ahh well, so much for the false economy, debt traps are a mugs game.

And a net worth of $2.5 billion.

Regards your first point, Deutsche bank selling Trumps loan to Bloomberg, would be like ANZ selling one farmers debt to another the farmer down the road. I don't think banking works that way in any world.

The problem in the USA appears to be around mail in ballots. If you have an election it is important that it is seen as fair and transparent. Mail in ballots are an open invitation for fraudulent activity and it looks like that has happened but no one knows the scale, it's the fact that you can allow that doubt in to people minds where it can grow and fester.

If this blows up it could get very ugly, and don't think you can drag the army out, the majority of police and the armed forces support Trump. The USA needs to be very careful how this is handled, blocking Trump off Twitter and facebook is not a good move, it feeds the fringes.

Jack Ma called the Chinese banking system a giant Ponzi scheme.

What evidence do you have, to lead your "it looks like that has happened but no one knows the scale" comment? You are aware that Trump votes by mail? His residence for electoral purposes is in Florida.

It's so cool having my own personal troll.

Fine. No answer though, I note.

any decent website like zerohedge will give you the information you are looking for.

Zerohedge stokes conspiracy theories to keep eyeballs on the screen and that advertising $$ rolling in. More self-serving than "decent". Its founder Daniel Ivandjiiski has a history of unethical behaviour. No wonder he admires Trump.

Andrewj, Only dumb Trump supporters believe that rubbish. And the funny part that it's Trump who is pushing these morons to protest outside of the vote counting centers, with conflicting chants as long as it suits him! On Wednesday evening Trump morons chanted; “Count those votes” and “Stop the count” outside vote-counting sites in Arizona and Michigan respectively.

The contradictory protests started after Trump lost ground to Mr Biden in Michigan, but started to close the gap in Arizona, as mail-in-ballots were counted throughout Wednesday. Trump also falsely claimed victory in the election on Wednesday morning when he was shown to be winning in Michigan, but losing in Arizona by a large margin.

"Trump lost ground to Mr Biden". Your phraseology gives you away.

Do you not understand how mail in voting works bw?

Yep. I saw a prequel to it on "Scandal" - the US drama series that not only details exactly how it works, but how the system can and will be misused. You've probably watched it. If not, it's a mindless way to pass the time but does offer some insights into what's possible. All the possibilities from delayed votes to mailbox stuffing to The Dead voting are detailed alongside "How it's supposed to work". Art mimicking Life, I guess.

Oh dear so you don't understand the difference between a 'Drama' which is fictional! And a factual documentary. Wow you're so laughable! :D

Perhaps not. But I don't slavishly believe what I see on BBC TV either!
I've been at dinner parties where sitting politicians have openly told me "they only went into politics for the inside information they will get". They may or may not be in the minority, but it doesn't take many to tip the boat over.

Or even Forbes!!!! Which is the link I posted about Trump massive debt! :P

You are being divisive, you really want to go down the path where everyone else is wrong and you know best, why do you need to call people who don't think like you or you find disagreeable 'morons'? It's a path the world has been down before with tragic consequences.

Americans can vote for whoever they want, it's nothing to do with us same as in Russia etc. But if you look at Europe it is going Right, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech, Republic Slovakia , Austria and so on, this is super scary to me, if these countries don't rein in immigration and create more jobs then it will go back to being savage continent again.
You cannot destroy millions of blue collar jobs like happened under Clinton in the midwest and not expect a blow back, the Democrats deserve to be roasted they have become the party of the elite, of billionaires, they represent the power of big government and the deep state, it never used to be like this.

Trump doesn't care about you or anyone else, can you not understand that! He's only in it for himself! And if you believe so much in Trump then why are you living in NZ?

If you look at politicians in the States both sides have people guilty of lining their pockets. Who said I believe in Trump, I am simply observing history, I don't have a bone in the fight.
I suspect Biden is more onto it than we have been led to believe and will be perfectly ok as president, however without a majority in the Senate he is going to struggle and could even be impeached over the ukraine scandal.

The problem is, the big donors of this democratic campaign will want their pound of flesh.

Whoosh! Down the rabbit hole!

I'm the only one making sense

The world is changing, technology and robotics will continue to consume jobs traditional to the blue collar worker, Trump cannot stop that.
Climate change, if we don't do anything to stop what we are doing that causes it, cannot be just ignored, it will also drive mass immigration as people try to escape the effects of it, can you blame them?
Corporations will continue to control our lives more than any politician can, THEY are what needs a bloody good haircut
Yes, the world is in turmoil, but a narcissistic, mid seventies toddler has nothing to offer to deal with this.

Climate change, if we don't do anything to stop what we are doing that causes it, cannot be just ignored, it will also drive mass immigration as people try to escape the effects of it, can you blame them?

Risible solutions? - Honda Joins Fiat in Paying Tesla for Europe C02 Compliance

This is about Trump, his environmental and climate change actions are/were deplorable. And we need to do a whole lot more than that

Funny, dumb Trump and Mr Biden. He got really under a lot of people's skin.

Georgia RNC is calling for a full on investigation on illegal ballots

And when they find 5/8 of Sweet FA, then what?

The Democrats had everything on their side in 2020: the mainstream media, the Deep State, the (self-professed) moral high ground, more campaign money than ever, a hysterically-motivated base – and yet if Trump does end up winning Democrats will have nothing to show for all that.

That should be stunning news. Here is the roundup of the non-presidential elections:

Republicans now hold 60% of state legislatures (where the most far-reaching policies are decided in this extremely decentralised, pioneer-influenced system), half of all state governorships, they’ll almost certainly keep a majority in the Senate, they shockingly reduced the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, conservatives just got a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court, and at the local judicial level Americans judges are already so conservative that it’s infamously said that they “never see corruption”.

(In the United States “corruption”, much like “propaganda”, is something only found in other countries, of course.)

So if Democratic leadership (dominated by the Clintonista faction) is not corrupt than they surely are incompetent, no? Despite every cultural, political and financial advantage – truly an unprecedented situation – they might walk away with only decapitating the figurehead of Trumpism.

It’s a second consecutive enormous failure by whoever is planning Democratic Party strategy – they now have two black eyes, even if they oust Trump. That’s good news for the Sandernista faction, but their blacklist of Iranian media shows how fake-leftist they really are.

The American commentariat is admitting the major Democratic defeat, but it’s being currently obscured by the presidential vote debacle, which is turning out like we all expected: judges will decide and not voters. Links: Part 1 and Part 2

Who said this back in 1998?
"If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican. They're the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they'd still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific"

For Biden now, the question is what all this looks like without Trump as a foil. Can the Democratic base hold together when they’re riven by disagreements over legislation rather than united by opposition to the president? Can Biden, as president, ignore Twitter controversies and try to hold marginal voters when the focus is on him and his actions? Is there any possibility of a successful governing agenda so long as Republicans hold the Senate?
Biden’s strategy worked in the context of Trump’s presidency. Now we’ll see how it holds up in Biden’s presidency.