She's not innocent, naive or ditzy: How Michael Cohen made it impossible for Ivanka Trump to continue playing dumb

She's not innocent, naive or ditzy: How Michael Cohen made it impossible for Ivanka Trump to continue playing dumb
News & Politics

After Michael Cohen's incendiary congressional hearing, is it finally time to start asking hard questions about Ivanka Trump's role in the sprawling corruption in Donald Trump's empire?

So far, the "first daughter" has mainly been the subject of negative press for her clueless princess persona, and the way she holds herself out as a model businesswoman and a mother while her father wreaks havoc on the lives of working women and families. But during his day-long testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Cohen -- who worked closely with Donald Trump for 10 years as his personal attorney and professional fixer -- implicated Ivanka in the sprawling story of her father's seedy and hidden Russian dealings, which may also be tied to the criminal conspiracy to steal emails from Democratic officials and influence the 2016 election.

Midway through the hearing, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., asked Cohen, "Who were the family members that you briefed on the Trump Tower Moscow project?" referring to Trump's efforts to get a favorable real estate deal from Russia's oligarch class at the same time that Russian intelligence was orchestrating a criminal conspiracy to manipulate the presidential election.

"Don Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump," Cohen replied, adding that he had spoken with both of them "approximately 10 times" about it.

Even though Ivanka is clearly her father's favorite child and has been heavily involved in both his real estate and branding business as well as his White House administration, she's gotten relatively little attention for the role she may have played in the Trump Organization or campaign's dealings in Russia.

Her brother, Donald Trump Jr., and even her husband, Jared Kushner, have received more press coverage for their apparent roles in a possible conspiracy. In part that's because both attended the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives promising "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, and because U.S. intelligence caught Kushner trying to set up a "back channel" to communicate with the Kremlin during the presidential transition period, shortly after Trump was elected.

But Ivanka is clearly in the mix on this. As Hannah Segilson detailed at The Intercept in March 2018, Ivanka was involved in the plan to fire then-FBI director James Comey, in a clear effort to derail federal investigations into Trump's Russian ties. She was also instrumental in convincing her father to hire Paul Manafort to run his campaign in mid-2016, even though Manafort was heavily tied to sleazy Russian oligarchs and their allies in the Ukraine and was mysteriously offering to work for Trump for free.

Ivanka plays dumb about Russia a lot to the media, telling ABC News that she knew "almost nothing" about the negotiations to open a massive Trump Tower in Russia that continued, as we now know, long into the general election campaign. But as Dan Friedman of Mother Jones has detailed, the evidence suggests otherwise. It was Ivanka who emailed Cohen in 2015 with a lead she thought could produce a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure the deal. She also reportedly suggested an architect for the Moscow tower. The building plans included a spa named after Ivanka and a notation that "all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities" were to be approved by her.

More broadly, Cohen's testimony on Wednesday was a reminder that the Trump Organization wasn't the sprawling corporation that Republicans would have people imagine, but a sparsely staffed and closely held family company. Unlike at a large corporation with a complicated hierarchy and many moving parts, the leadership of the Trump Organization — consisting of Donald Trump himself and his three eldest children — were intimately involved in the company's dealings.  Under those circumstances, it's preposterous to imagine Ivanka wasn't involved in the Moscow talks, which were clearly geared towards one of the biggest projects -- if not the very biggest -- the Trump company had ever developed.

But so far, Ivanka has not received even close to the level of scrutiny her husband or brother has received. Even after Cohen's testimony, the headlines have been more focused on Donald Trump Jr. than his sister:

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