President Donald Trump watches as daughter Ivanka Trump speaks at a campaign event at the Kenosha Regional Airport, Kenosha, Wisconsin. File/Associated Press
Ahmed Baba, The Independent
Ivanka spent eight hours testifying to the committee rather than refusing a subpoena or invoking the Fifth, much to many people’s surprise. The week before, so did Jared Kushner. This hints at an interesting new strategy
Just before 3pm on January 6, 2021, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) frantically called then-President Donald Trump. The Capitol was under violent siege by pro-Trump insurrectionists. McCarthy’s own office was vandalized and evacuations were underway.
Ashli Babbitt had just been shot while attempting to leap into the Speaker’s lobby. “You’ve got to tell them to stop,” McCarthy reportedly shouted at Trump. Trump, who didn’t ask about McCarthy’s safety, uttered this now-infamous quote in response: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
It was after this call that Ivanka Trump was reportedly summoned by then-National Security Advisor Keith Kellogg. Kellogg felt Ivanka “could reach her father in ways others could not.”
Ivanka walked into the Oval Office. A few minutes later, she emerged, looking like she had just had a tough conversation. Ivanka went back into the Oval Office two more times. “Let this thing go,” she urged her father. “Let it go.” Over a year later, Donald Trump still hasn’t let it go.
All that I just outlined is from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s book “Peril,” which gives us one of the most comprehensive looks at the Trump White House during that historic day. Perhaps now, the January 6 Select Committee knows more, and directly from the source.
This week, Ivanka Trump voluntarily testified before the January 6 Committee for about eight hours. Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told NBC News that Ivanka Trump was “answering questions,” but “not in a broad, chatty” way. Notably, she did not invoke the Fifth Amendment.
This comes after Jared Kushner testified for six hours last week. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), who sits on the January 6 Committee, said that Kushner was cooperative, “helpful,” and “valuable.” Kushner was on his way back from a trip to Saudi Arabia on January 6, but the Committee believes he could provide details on the weeks leading up to the insurrection.
Of particular interest to the January 6 Committee is what happened during those crucial hours at the White House as rioters breached the Capitol. Reports indicated a seven-hour gap in January 6 White House phone records provided to the Committee — a time period during which we knew Trump made calls and met with aides. Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is a key player at the center of this, has been held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena. Now, Ivanka Trump’s testimony is especially important.
Ivanka is among the handful of people who knows Donald Trump best. She was in the White House during the insurrection. She was in the Oval Office during the peak of the violence. She saw how her father reacted. The question is: How much detail did she give to the January 6 Committee?
Both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner could’ve put up a fight like former Trump aides Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Peter Navarro, and Dan Scavino. They could’ve made a show of solidarity with the former president. Instead, they voluntarily delivered lengthy testimony to the January 6 Committee.
Ivanka and Jared have been known to blow with the political wind and Ivanka’s political ambitions are no secret. Could they be spilling truth to the Committee in an effort to generate goodwill or are they obfuscating to protect the grandfather of their children? Only time will tell.
So far, the January 6 Committee has kept the details of testimony they’ve garnered close to the vest. They apparently learned from the years-long “drip drip drip” of leaks from the Mueller investigation, which took the wind out of the final findings of the report. If the January 6 Committee has learned something damning from Ivanka or Jared, they will likely save it for their report and blockbuster hearings this summer.
Since last July, the January 6 Committee has been hard at work piecing together what happened. They’ve interviewed hundreds of people and reviewed tens of thousands of documents. They’ve established “three rings” of the insurrection, as outlined by January 6 Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
The outer ring, or “riot ring,” was the rally that happened before the Capitol attack. The middle ring, or “insurrection ring,” was the violent attack itself, executed by organised extremist groups. The inner ring, or the “ring of the coup,” was what the other two rings culminated in: the effort to coerce Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify the election.
The inner ring is the core of what Donald Trump engaged in with his lawyer John Eastman and fellow Republican congresspeople. The “Green Bay Sweep,” as Peter Navarro put it. The plan was to pressure state legislatures to overturn their electoral votes with “phony electors,” have Pence refuse to certify state elections based on objections from Republican congresspeople, and re-install Trump as president. In other words, a coup.
The January 6 Committee has clearly signaled they believe Donald Trump engaged in criminal activity. But the committee can’t prosecute him. That is up to the Department of Justice.
Over the past year, the DOJ has been largely focused on the more violent “riot ring.” It has already prosecuted hundreds of violent insurrectionists and is seeking to prosecute hundreds more. But now, amid mounting pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland, it appears the DOJ has expanded its investigation to more effectively cover the center of these “three rings.” The New York Times reported that a new subpoena “requests information about any members of the executive and legislative branches.”
The “ring of the coup” is clearly garnering more scrutiny. This is where Ivanka’s testimony could be insightful. She reportedly witnessed a call between Trump and Pence on the morning of January 6 where Trump pressed Pence to overturn the electoral results. She could also help shed more light on Donald Trump’s state of mind throughout the day. “Criminal intent” matters greatly when charging criminal conspiracies — which, if a recent ruling from District Judge David Carter is any indication, is where this could be heading.
In a civil suit, Eastman sought to withhold emails from the January 6 Committee while claiming that they were covered by attorney-client privilege.
The January 6 Committee argued otherwise, claiming that the emails were not covered, due to the “crime-fraud exemption,” which means that if an attorney was advising their client to commit a crime, the privilege is invalid.
Judge Carter ruled in favor of the January 6 Committee, but he went even further. He stated that Donald Trump “more likely than not” committed obstruction and conspiracy in his bid to obstruct Congress’s ability to count the electoral votes in the 2020 election. The investigation is ongoing. The evidence is all here. Now we wait and see if accountability will follow.