It’s truly Shakespearean in its scope and drama. Or perhaps more like a really mind-blowing episode of Succession. Beloved eldest daughter of the man-who-would-be-king, the former president who has commanded such loyalty from his acolytes and sycophants that two dozen have risked contempt of Congress charges and jail time to keep from speaking anything of his alleged crimes, decides that she will not join them in their cone of silence. Rather, and without the need for a formal subpoena, Ivanka Trump appeared voluntarily on Tuesday before the January 6 Committee to provide some eight hours of testimony. And all this took place without, apparently, Ivanka invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
We do not know what Ivanka Trump said, but as to the question of what Ivanka Trump likely knows, the right word is “plenty.” Indeed, the Committee wants badly to flesh out its narrative about what Donald Trump planned before January 6, what he did during the insurrection at the Capitol during those fateful hours, and what he did afterwards that might evince consciousness of guilt. And as to all of these matters, Ivanka Trump was a witness. In fact, in some cases she was the key witness. And if she talked, the public is likely to believe her. She is, after all, Donald’s darling favorite.
The Eastman Coup Plot Leading Up to January 6
As I wrote about last week, a federal judge recently found in a civil challenge over attorney-client privilege claims that Donald Trump and his attorney John Eastman likely committed two federal crimes in plotting to overturn the November 2020 election, including obstructing an official act of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the United States. It was an important test of the strength of the January 6 Committee’s case for a criminal prosecution referral, and it likely sent alarm bells ringing throughout the former Trump White House. A key part of that ruling hinged on a meeting that took place on the morning of the insurrection itself, during which Donald Trump tried once again to illegally pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to go along with the Eastman plot and declare Trump the winner by disregarding the electoral votes of key swing states.
It turns out, Ivanka Trump was physically present in the Oval Office during that call. And it also appears she did not like what she was hearing. Nor, apparently, did she like what people like Rudy Giuliani had been advising. “This is not right,” she said that morning. “It’s not right.” After her father repeatedly asked Mike Pence to violate his constitutional oath by going along with the scheme, and Pence ultimately refused to do so, Ivanka Trump turned to General Keith Kellogg, who was also present, and said, “Mike Pence is a good man,” according to testimony by Kellogg before the Committee.
The Committee wants to know specifically whether Ivanka Trump ever discussed the coup plan with any member of the White House counsel’s office after it concluded that the scheme would violate the Constitution or was otherwise illegal, and importantly whether any such conclusions were shared with her father. It also wants to know what conversations she may have had or overheard with Mark Meadows or other members of the White House staff about the plot to keep her father in power.
The Fateful Hours During the Insurrection at the Capitol
Ivanka Trump not only was present during key moments in the apparent conspiracy to overturn the election, she was also present in the White House as aides tried desperately to get Donald Trump to call off the attack.
The Committee has zeroed in on what transpired right around 2:24 p.m. that day, when the former president sent out a tweet calling Mike Pence a coward for not sending the election back to the states to investigate claims of fraud. That tweet so enraged Trump’s supporters that many of them decided, right then and there, to storm the building, at least according to sworn affidavits obtained as part of their plea agreements. (The curious insertion of these defendants’ statements by the Justice Department into their plea agreements, tying Donald Trump’s incendiary tweet to their motivations and actions that day, has some speculating that prosecutors intend to show a direct causal link between Trump’s actions and the disruption of the electoral count that followed, as I wrote about back in January.)
Many in the White House staff wanted Donald Trump to take action to quell the attack, but the former president was being “stubborn” according to other witnesses. It was widely believed that Ivanka Trump was the only one who could possibly persuade him to act. As General Kellogg testified:
Q: He didn’t say yes to Mark Meadows or Kayleigh McEnany or Keith Kellogg, but he might say yes to his daughter?
A: Exactly right.
Ivanka Trump apparently had to make several attempts to get through to her father that day. The Committee wants to know why the former president did not take the advice of so many of his staff and family and take action to quell the riot. His failure to do so could evince a “corrupt” state of mind—part of the elements of the federal crime he may be charged with—because, after all, the crowd was now trying to do what Trump could not get Pence to do: to disrupt or delay the electoral count. The Committee also wants to know more about the multiple attempts to get the former president to tape a video address, including what was said by him during unused takes. And it wants to know why Donald Trump never called in the National Guard to help put down the riot that day. Ivanka Trump has direct knowledge of all of this.
The Weeks After the Insurrection and Coup Attempt
The Committee believes, based on evidence it already acquired, that after the attack on the Capitol, people within Donald Trump’s orbit were trying to keep him from speaking about a “stolen election” and to transition the White House peaceably to Joe Biden. There was concern about the second impeachment and talk of using the 25th Amendment if possible. It isn’t clear from the record (yet) how involved Ivanka Trump was in efforts to keep her father in line after January 6 so that, as Sean Hannity put it, “we have a clear path to land the plane.”
A key question will be why members of Trump’s inner circle were advising him to stop talking about alleged election fraud, as well as what efforts were underway to preserve documents for the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. It now appears that official call logs from January 6, finally obtained by the Committee after a Supreme Court ruling, show a gap of more than seven hours even though there were in fact calls being made from official White House telephone lines, suggesting the possibility that someone may have ordered the calls not to be logged or that someone tampered with the log after the fact.
Eight hours is a long time to talk without objection to the Committee. Ivanka Trump may have come to realize that her initial response to the coup plot was the right one, and that she doesn’t want to be standing on the wrong side of the line should the investigation become a criminal prosecution. Or she could be cooperating to avoid being the center of yet another high profile legal stand-off, especially if she has nothing personally to hide.
Her husband, Jared Kushner, may have made the same calculation. He spoke for six hours before the Committee on March 31 and apparently also did not invoke the Fifth Amendment either. His testimony, which was used to substantiate information known to the Committee, was described by one Committee member as “helpful.”
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