Ivanka Trump must be feeling the heat.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has subpoenaed Ivanka to testify and produce documents related to the Trump Organization's shady business practices. James has also subpoenaed Donald Trump Sr. and Donald Jr. Last October, Eric Trump had his deposition taken in the same probe, and reportedly invoked his 5th Amendment right to remain silent over 500 times.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is also interested in Ivanka. In a letter sent on Jan. 20, the committee asked Ivanka to sit for an interview to discuss the events of Jan. 6, and to share her knowledge of any "conversations [she] may have witnessed or participated in regarding the [former] President’s plan to obstruct or impede the counting of electoral votes."
The letter expressed particular interest in hearing from Ivanka on four overlapping subjects: (1) The ex-president's calls with Mike Pence. (2) Any statements made by the former president on Jan. 6 about the attack on the Capitol. (3) The ex-president's reasons for refusing to summon the National Guard and his delay in urging his supporters to end their siege on the Capitol. (4) And any light Ivanka might be able to shed on her father's activities and conduct in the days after Jan. 6, "including President Trump's state of mind during that period and whether the President took appropriate action regarding the continuing threats of violence."
None of this is good news for someone who wants to redeem her tarnished social image and regain her spot on the glitterati A-list.
Thus far, however, Ivanka has shown no interest in cooperating. She has refused to comply with the New York subpoenas, and publicly has shown no interest in meeting with the select committee.
Both James and the committee appear equally determined. James has asked a New York judge to compel Ivanka's compliance, and the committee has proven that it is willing to play hardball with anyone who snubs it. Just ask Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows.
This is not the first time speculation has arisen that Ivanka might turn against her father. Back in July, after the Manhattan district attorney charged the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with falsifying business records and other financial felonies, Mary Trump, the ex-president's niece, told the Daily Beast that Ivanka was far less likely to remain loyal to her father than Weisselberg.
"I think kind of in the grand scheme of things, as counterintuitive as this might sound...Ivanka has, one, more to lose and, two, more to hang onto. Her husband's family is legitimately very wealthy," Mary Trump said. "If there are two sets of books for Allen, there are two sets of books for other people. And I think we're also going to find that in these millions of pages of documents [that prosecutors have obtained] there will be more evidence."
Even before Mary Trump offered her take, I offered mine in a column I wrote for Salon and Raw Story in early December 2020, suggesting that ultimately the best course for Ivanka might be to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for an immunity agreement to shield herself from personal legal liability.
Two weeks before I wrote the column, The New York Times had reported that James and the Manhattan DA were looking into the Trump Organization for alleged income-tax-avoidance schemes, including questionable deductions claimed for "consulting fees" paid to Ivanka and other individuals and businesses.
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In September 2020, the Times published a mammoth expose of Donald Trump's financial dealings, revealing that between 2010 and 2018, the Trump Organization wrote off "$26 million in unexplained 'consulting fees'" as business expenses on its tax returns. The $26 million included $747,622 paid to an unidentified individual. That amount, it turned out, exactly matched income Ivanka listed as consulting fees on the 2017 financial disclosure forms she filed when she joined the White House staff.
There is nothing illegal about receiving compensation for consulting work, provided that services are actually rendered. But Ivanka's consulting services looked anything but routine.
In my column, I quoted comments made by former New York City prosecutor Elura Nanos and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig about the consulting fees. Nanos explained in an article written for the Law & Crime website that Ivanka was "an executive officer of both of the company making the payment and the company doing the consulting. When a key person is on both sides of such a transaction, tax deductions could be illegal if the payments were inflated."
Honig, who spent eight years working as an assistant U.S. prosecuting white-collar crime, described Ivanka's predicament even more bluntly in an on-air interview:
"I used to do Mafia cases. This is exactly what they would do. If they wanted to take money out of a company and put it in the pocket of an individual, they would say, 'We'll just call it a consulting fee.' That does not make it okay on its own. The question… is did Ivanka Trump actually give consulting services worth $747,000? I mean, think about that."
Ivanka reacted to the news back then that she was being investigated in true Trump fashion, rage-tweeting:
"This is harassment pure and simple. This 'inquiry' by NYC democrats is 100% motivated by politics, publicity and rage. They know very well that there's nothing here and that there was no tax benefit whatsoever. These politicians are simply ruthless."
The new round of subpoenas from James, combined with the select committee's letter, must make Ivanka wonder, to quote Yogi Berra, if "It's deja vu all over again."
I'm not predicting that Ivanka will suddenly see the light and turn "state's evidence" against her father and siblings as investigators pepper her staccato-style with questions. This isn't an episode of "Law and Order." It's real life.
But, then again, Ivanka's real life is about to get far more uncomfortable. In the end, she might just consider the joys and benefits of cooperation. The alternative is to hope for the best and follow Eric's lead of taking the 5th. And that certainly won't be a good look for someone seeking redemption.