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Ivanka and Donald Trump

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

If you're a fan of TV crime procedurals, you've no doubt seen shows where detectives interrogate two suspects detained in separate and austere holding rooms. The object is to get one of the perps to snitch on his or her accomplice and "turn state's evidence" in return for leniency.

The dramas may feature different actors and different crimes, but the essential script components are the same: The cops offer immunity, witness protection, or some other favorable treatment in exchange for a confession. The arrestees, however, remain defiant, and hang tough. Some sit stone-faced and silent. Others smirk and laugh. Still others hurl back insults, accusing the cops of incompetence and a rush to judgment.


Then, slowly, just before a big commercial break, the fear of doing hard time sets in. One of the suspects reconsiders the possibility that the confederate will cash in on the promise of a deal, leaving him or her alone to take the rap. The perp's rough exterior cracks. Before you can say "case closed," Miranda rights are waived, and the truth emerges.

In real life, the drill rarely concludes as quickly. And while some suspects invoke the Fifth Amendment and never agree to talk, others do. Just ask former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates why he decided to testify against his former business partner Paul Manafort. Faced with the prospect of a lengthy prison term, Gates opted to save his own skin.

As Donald Trump's desperate plot to subvert the election fails and the end of his presidency approaches, Ivanka Trump could face her own "state's evidence" moment as a result of her role in her father's sketchy business enterprises in New York.

According to the New York Times, both state attorney general Letitia James and Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. are investigating income-tax-avoidance schemes undertaken by the Trump Organization that involve questionable deductions claimed for "consulting fees" paid to Ivanka and other individuals and businesses.

Vance's investigation is criminal in nature, while James' inquiry is civil. The probes, per the New York Times, are being conducted independently, but they overlap. New subpoenas have been issued in each, seeking information about the consulting payments.

The subpoenas come on the heels of a blockbuster story published by the Times in late September that revealed Trump paid a mere $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency, and that he paid no income taxes in 10 of the 15 years prior to that.

Documents obtained by the Times also indicate that between 2010 and 2018, Trump wrote off "$26 million in unexplained 'consulting fees'" as business expenses on his tax returns. The $26 million included $747,622 paid to an unidentified individual. That amount, it turns out, exactly matches income Ivanka listed as consulting fees on the 2017 financial disclosure forms she filed when she joined the White House staff.

As former New York City prosecutor Elura Nanos wrote in a recent column for the Law & Crime website, "This could be a problem, as Ms. Trump was an executive officer 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."

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, who worked for eight years as an assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting white-collar crimes, described Ivanka's predicament more bluntly in a November 20 on-air interview, remarking:

"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 news of the consulting-fee subpoenas 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."

It's rarely a good idea, whether on television or in the actual world, for a potential suspect to directly attack the investigators. The better course is to let your lawyers do the talking.

Ivanka, of all people, should know this. In 2012, she and Donald Trump Jr. reportedly avoided a felony fraud indictment for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development in lower Manhattan. The siblings narrowly escaped prosecution, but only after high-powered attorney Marc Kasowitz, a longtime Trump family consigliere and a Vance campaign donor, allegedly leaned on the DA behind the scenes to drop the case.

Vance is showing no signs of backing down this time. To the contrary, he is leading a grand jury probe that extends well beyond the possible misuse of consulting fees to determine if any of the president's past business practices violated state fraud and income tax laws. He is also looking into whether the Trump Organization falsified corporate records in connection with the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In July, Vance scored a historic legal victory when the Supreme Court denied the president's request to halt Vance's inquiry, rejecting Trump's claims of "absolute immunity" from state criminal prosecutions.

Trump cannot be pardoned for state crimes, and absent a federal pardon, once he leaves office, he will lose the immunity he now enjoys as a sitting president from prosecution for any federal offenses he may have committed. And while Trump's attorneys currently are back before the Supreme Court, asking the panel to narrow the scope of Vance's subpoenas, that effort would appear similarly doomed once Trump departs the White House.

What this means for Ivanka remains to be seen. She has not yet been formally accused of committing a crime, or officially been named as a target of any investigation. Moreover, even if she is eventually indicted, everyone—even a Trump—is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Still, as the clock ticks down on the Trump presidency, the first daughter may well be advised to ponder whether her legal interests and those of her father have diverged to the point where it would be better to cooperate with the authorities, fess up, and ultimately turn state's evidence.

Stay tuned. This story is just beginning.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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