Whether it’s the lawmakers on Capitol Hill plumbing the depths of last year’s failed coup, or prosecutors in New York putting former President Donald Trump’s sprawling family business under a microscope, investigators working very different probes are increasingly looking to pressure the same person: Ivanka Trump.
There’s hardly any indication the corporate heiress is under investigation herself, or that she faces possible criminal charges. But sources on both sides—in law enforcement and those close to her—say Ivanka is a key witness to a litany of alleged crimes.
And it’s all coming to a head this week.
On Tuesday, the New York attorney general filed court documents that claim Ivanka Trump played a much more insidious role in the company’s web of financial deceit than previously known. Investigators are asking a judge to enforce a subpoena that would make her testify under oath.
And on Thursday, the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection formally asked Ivanka to sit down and answer questions about her interactions with her then-president father during the hours the Capitol building was under attack. The request for a “voluntary interview” is widely perceived to be a first pass that, should it be rejected, could be followed by a congressional subpoena—and the implicit threat of a Justice Department criminal prosecution if it’s ignored.
On both fronts, Ivanka will be pressured to explain her father’s crooked tactics—tactics that Ivanka appears desperate to distance herself from now.
—New York, New York—
When New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a surprising court document laying out “significant evidence” of fraud at the Trump Organization, the wide-ranging summary listed all the ways investigators have zeroed in on Ivanka Trump.
Investigators assert Ivanka was a “key player” in several transactions that relied on fraudulent property values which were used to obtain bank loans and strike real estate deals. One described her as the company’s “primary contact” with its largest lender, Deutsche Bank. Another said she was the one who negotiated the terms of a loan from that German bank for the Trump National Doral golf resort in suburban Miami, as well as the Trump International hotels in Chicago and Washington.
“In connection with this work, Ms. Trump caused misleading financial statements to be submitted to Deutsche Bank and the federal government,” the AG’s office said in a court filing on Wednesday.
A source familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast that accusation might come off as aggressive—but is really just a sloppily worded description of her role as conduit to a business deal.
“There's absolutely no basis for Ivanka being anything other than a potential witness,” this source said.
But it does put her in proximity of behavior that could potentially be described as bank fraud, according to several former investigators and prosecutors who reviewed these court filings for The Daily Beast.
Until now, only the company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, had been outed and embroiled in illegal behavior—for which he was indicted last summer on allegations of criminal tax fraud.
But these assertions by investigators—albeit in a separate civil case—allege that Donald Trump led the scheme with the help of his three adult children. Because while he would make up fake and often inflated valuations for business assets, the kids would allegedly be around to finalize the deals based on those cooked-up reports.
For example, when Ivanka Trump was attempting to get financing for the Trump Doral golf club resort, investigators say she was copied in on a letter from her father to the CEO of Deutsche Bank Securities that included one of the company’s routinely fake “statements of financial condition.”
Similarly, when Ivanka worked on the deal with a federal government agency to develop a hotel in the nation’s capital, investigators say she submitted a proposal to the General Services Administration that included the same kind of shady documents to show a rosy picture of the company’s financial health.
But investigators took this a step further, noting that on the Washington development deal Ivanka Trump signed documents to draw money from Deutsche Bank.
All of these items could yield serious charges. And the prospect of legal repercussions could be a motivating factor for Trump to run again.
According to three advisers who’ve spoken to Trump at various points since he left Washington, the twice-impeached former president has indicated that, if serious charges appear to be coming from the probes into him and his family real estate business, it would only increase his desire to run again for the presidency.
The office of the American presidency comes with considerable legal protections and immunity that Trump has personally valued and clung to in recent years.
But in the aftermath of the tumultuous four years of the Trump presidency—which climaxed with the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol that her father instigated—Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have spent much of the past year attempting to dodge the political spotlight.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation said that, over the last year, high-level conversations in former President Trump’s political operation rarely, if ever, involve Ivanka, and her name is barely even mentioned. This includes various strategy discussions and event-planning that do involve other prominent members of the Trump family.
Instead, Ivanka has tried—with extremely limited success—to paint herself as a part-time humanitarian.
Early last year, as her father’s White House stint came to its blood-splattered close, she began talking to close associates about ways she could continue publicly championing a shortlist of political and social causes, particularly criminal justice reform, according to two people familiar with the matter.
But then, the attempted rehab tour just… didn’t happen.
In the time since President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Ivanka’s public profile and image-management forays have remained sparse, after fleeing Washington, D.C., for a luxury condominium in Florida. Perhaps the biggest appearance in national political news last year was when she promised Trump-aligned Sen. Marco Rubio that she wouldn’t run for his seat.
Predictably, the two sources familiar with the matter say, the former senior White House adviser has spent a good deal of the past year expecting and preparing to get ensnared by the variety of investigations into the Trumps’ business empire and her father’s time in power.
Asked by The Daily Beast how Ivanka Trump was handling all of the legal fallout, the sources would only say that it all “frustrated” or “annoyed” her.
“She is somebody who, to her core, believes she still has so much to offer the world,” one of these people, who’s known Ivanka for years, said. “To be hassled with investigation after investigation is not where she wanted to be at this chapter in her life.”
Daniel L. Feldman, a former assistant attorney general in New York, told The Daily Beast that helping her father has brought Ivanka Trump dangerously close to the textbook definition of fraud. Because while investigators don’t identify her as the one who faked property values, she still bears some responsibility as the “executive vice president for development and acquisitions” who negotiated deals and turned over signed documents.
“It’s not just a messenger he sent over, it’s his daughter. If you sign your name to a fraudulent document, I don’t think you're just the representative. You’re a signatory to the agreement,” Feldman said.
But Ivanka’s use of that bogus information is what makes her a key witness for law enforcement.
Feldman, who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said “That’s the part of the traditional definition of fraud: material omission or material misrepresentation upon which the other party relies in order to gain an improper or illegal benefit for the person.”
New York state investigators also want her to testify about how she received a company benefit from the Trump Organization by being allowed to rent a luxury penthouse apartment in the Trump Park Avenue for far less than others in the building—and being offered an option to buy it for $8.5 million while other company documents valued it at three times as much.
In its court filing, the AG’s office did not explain whether it’s operating under the belief that she received some kind of untaxed corporate benefit—like Weisselberg allegedly did—or if this was another company scheme to inflate asset values.
Either way, investigators want to talk to her about the deal—even if, as one source noted, the issue is a decade old and she never ended up buying the apartment.
“The cleaner Ms. Trump’s hands are—she could say, ‘I had no idea it was a sweetheart deal’—the more unclean the organization’s hands are,” said David Shapiro, a former FBI special agent and financial fraud investigator who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Meanwhile, congressional investigators want to further explore to what extent Ivanka Trump tried to get her father to call off the violent rioters who were savagely beating police and storming the halls of Congress. In the committee’s letter to her, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) revealed that his panel had received sworn testimony that “members of the White House staff requested your assistance on multiple occasions to intervene in an attempt to persuade President Trump to address the ongoing lawlessness and violence on Capitol Hill.”
For instance, investigators claim Ivanka was present when her father called then-Vice President Mike Pence on the morning of Jan. 6 and tried to pressure him to halt the peaceful transfer of power.
“If you don’t do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago,” Trump reportedly said. “You’re going to wimp out.”
“We would like to meet with you soon,” Rep. Thompson wrote to Ivanka Trump, indicating a desire to receive her testimony during the first week of February.
But if her recent actions are any indication, it might be a no-show.
When the New York AG issued a subpoena commanding her to appear for a deposition at 10 a.m. on Jan. 3, Ivanka never showed up. Instead, eight hours later, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Futerfas asked a state judge to kill the subpoena.