Politico Edits False Story Claiming Trump Owes Millions to China

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Politico edited on Saturday morning a story claiming Donald Trump owes millions to the Bank of China for a loan on a New York City office building, hours after Breitbart News exposed the story as false.

The story now begins with a note that it has been “updated to include comment from the Bank of China and additional reporting.” Despite the initial story being substantively incorrect and getting several details wrong, Politico did not issue a formal correction, as standard journalistic good practice would indicate they should. What’s more, the story continues to be wrong in several places.

The original story’s headline was “Trump owes tens of millions to Bank of China.” Now it is “Trump owed tens of millions to Bank of China.” But that claim is still wrong. Trump never owed tens of millions to Bank of China, as Breitbart News reported Friday.  The subhead is” The president’s financial dealings with the state-owned bank complicate his attacks on Biden,” another false claim that remains in the story.

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 News reported Friday that the story was wrong. 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.

Politico now reports:

After the first version of this article was published, the Bank of China issued a statement Friday evening stating that it sold its debt on the building weeks after the 2012 loan on the property. Vornado Realty Trust owns 70 percent of the building.

“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, managing director and chief communications officer of Bank of China U.S.A. “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.”

The story also said that Trump’s “financial dealings” with the Chinese bank undermined his campaign’s efforts to highlight that the election of Joe Biden “would be a gift to the Communist country and America’s chief economic rival.” The Biden campaign and its mainstream media allies have been pushing back against this by claiming that Trump has lately been “coddling China,” despite the fact that the Trump administration still has tariffs in place on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods.

That part has not yet been corrected, although it too is false. “The president’s financial dealings with the state-owned bank complicate his attacks on Biden,” the story still says. But Trump did not have financial dealings with the state-owned bank. He was a passive holder of limited parternship shares in a real estate trust managed by Vornado Realty, one of the biggest commercial real estate investors in the U.S.

The headline on the story claimes “Trump owed tens of millions to Bank of China.” That is also false. Trump never owed money to China, the Vornado controlled trust did. And China’s interest in the loans was extinguished in a matter of days, eight years ago.

The story also fails to convey the critical fact that Bank of China is one of the largest foreign investors in commercial real estate in the U.S., making its participation in the financing of 1290 Avenue of the Americas far from unusual. The deal was the first time a loan with a Chinese lender participating was securitized, meaning packaged into a mortgage-backed security and sold to investors.

More corrections are needed.

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