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Ivanka Trump’s Jan. 6 testimony exposes family strain

The former president called his daughter ‘checked out’ after investigators showed her accepting that his election fraud claims were false

A video of former White House adviser Ivanka Trump is shown on June 9 at the House select committee hearing investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack in Washington. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
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Former president Donald Trump has demanded that many of his aides and advisers claim privilege and resist subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Not his daughter and son-in-law, though.

“I said, ‘Whatever you want to do is okay with me.’ I didn’t even speak to them about it,” Trump recounted in an April interview with The Washington Post. “Don’t care what they said. Let them say the truth. I told them that: ‘Just say the truth.’ ”

But when the public got its first glimpse on Thursday night of what Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had to say, the former president appeared less generous — issuing a statement that pushed back on her testimony.

“Ivanka Trump was not involved in looking at, or studying, Election results,” Trump posted on his Truth Social platform. “She had long since checked out.”

Trump was reacting to a short clip of Ivanka Trump that was played during Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) opening statement, in which the former president’s daughter said she accepted Attorney General William P. Barr’s conclusion that there was no widespread fraud affecting the outcome — even as her father was continuing in public to falsely insist it had been stolen.

“It affected my perspective,” Ivanka Trump said in the clip. “I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying.”

The discord marks a new twist on a close father-daughter relationship that has spanned family, business and politics, exposing a rift that has opened since the 2020 election, according to other Trump advisers. Before Jan. 6, Ivanka Trump broke with her father and siblings in avoiding baseless fraud allegations and attempts to overturn the election results. On the day of the Capitol riot, she repeatedly tried to convince the president to make a statement or video calling for his supporters to stop the attack, The Post has reported.

That tension could mount as the committee holds more hearings this month. Ivanka Trump’s descriptions of her efforts to press her father into action on Jan. 6 have made her a key witness for investigators, people familiar with her testimony said. The committee interviewed both Ivanka Trump and Kushner for hours and has also indicated that it will release transcripts.

“You’re probably going to get a heavy dose of Jared and Ivanka going forward,” said a lawyer representing other witnesses who spoke on the condition of anonymity because those discussions are confidential. Committee sources viewed Ivanka Trump and Kushner as sometimes helpful and at times frustrating, according to multiple advisers — but particularly useful in understanding Trump’s psyche.

Trump said in the Post interview that they didn’t tell him in advance about what they planned to say in testimony and that he viewed the committee’s focus on Ivanka as “harassment.”

The testimony’s impact was heightened on Thursday by the use of a video excerpt — a bold step for a congressional investigation that came as a surprise even to people closely following the probe. The clip made for one of the most dramatic moments in the first hearing, which drew a television audience of almost 19 million Americans.

“I don’t know if anybody walked in thinking they’re going to have videos shown on prime time,” said a former Trump White House adviser, who like others interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay private discussions.

Representatives for Ivanka Trump, Kushner and Donald Trump did not respond to requests for comment. But another former Trump adviser disputed that Trump was angry with his daughter over the testimony. The aim of his statement, the former adviser said, was to emphasize that Ivanka wasn’t involved in legal discussions.

The committee also played a short clip of Kushner’s testimony in which he appeared dismissive of White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s threats to resign in protest of some pardon discussions.

“I kind of took it up to just be whining, to be honest with you,” Kushner said in the video.

Trump has not made any public response to Kushner’s testimony. Privately, he has complained about Kushner’s role in the reelection campaign and the many White House efforts that Kushner has tried to take credit for, according to three people who have spoken to Trump.

Since Trump left office, his daughter and son-in-law have not attended meetings on political travel, spending or other parts of his political operation and have rarely spoken with his other advisers. The couple have reportedly bought an estate on an exclusive Miami-Dade island. One adviser who is regularly around the president said: “I’ve seen Jared one time.” But the former president still regularly talks to Ivanka Trump.

His post on Friday also appeared to defend his daughter’s testimony as “only trying to be respectful to Bill Barr” — whom Trump had much harsher words for.

Some other conservatives criticized the use of the video as a cheap shot. “The Ivanka Trump clip has gotten a lot of attention, but its inclusion was entirely gratuitous and clearly meant simply to embarrass her,” National Review’s editor in chief, Rich Lowry, said on Twitter.

In deciding to cooperate with the committee, Ivanka Trump and Kushner may have considered the investigators’ aggressive use of criminal contempt referrals for witnesses refusing to appear.

“They didn’t want to be in the same category as Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro,” the lawyer representing other witnesses said, referring to the former Trump advisers who’ve been indicted after defying the committee’s subpoenas.

Ivanka Trump has long participated in her father’s business ventures, including a New York condo project that recently drew prosecutors’ scrutiny but no charges, and the Washington hotel at the center of multiple conflict-of-interest investigations and lawsuits during his presidency. She also branched out to launch her own clothing line, and Kushner brought his own wealth, media ventures and family real estate empire.

As the couple sidestepped anti-nepotism rules to take White House jobs, Ivanka Trump initially presented herself as a moderating force. A onetime Democrat who supported gay rights and abortion rights, she later announced that she became a “Trump Republican” and opposed abortion, prompting speculation about her own political ambitions. The couple’s special treatment as the only advisers who could stake out their own positions and could not be fired was frequently a sore point for other staffers.

“They could float in and out when they wanted to, while the rest of everybody else didn’t have that luxury,” the former White House official said. “They sold the whole thing at the beginning as being the people who could moderate him. They clearly couldn’t do that. At the end, they knew they weren’t going to change his mind, so why be party to a bunch of this stuff?”

In another sign of the couple’s uneasy independence, they have in the past shown a rare willingness among Trump insiders to cooperate with investigators. During the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Kushner worked with well-respected lawyers who gave conciliatory public statements, in contrast to the more combative tone from Donald Trump’s legal team.

It’s not clear what other information Ivanka Trump gave investigators that could show up in upcoming hearings. The committee’s letter asking her to testify referenced Trump’s plan to impede the counting electoral votes, whether he sought to block the deployment of the National Guard and what he was doing in the days after the attack regarding ongoing threats of violence.

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