Faced with a Washington Post report that Ivanka Trump had regularly used a private email account to conduct government business in 2017, the explanation from her side went like this: She didn’t know that was wrong!
I’m not kidding.
Here’s the key snippet from the Post story (bolding mine):
“Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal emails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. She said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.”
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump lawyer Abbe Lowell, said something similar in a statement following the Post story. (Again, bolding is mine.)
“While transitioning into government, until the White House provided her the same guidance they had to others who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family,” Mirijanian said.
How. Is. That. Possible.
How could Ivanka Trump have not known – even prior to the White House providing her “guidance” – that using a private email account to conduct official business was a giant no-no?
As you may remember, the central attack by Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign centered on her decision to use a private email account and server while serving as secretary of state. Trump insisted that Clinton was not being fully transparent about why she used a private email server for government business – and used that as a foothold into a broader questioning of whether the former secretary of state could be trusted with the nation’s top job.
“How can Hillary run the economy when she can’t even send emails without putting entire nation at risk,” Trump tweeted in June 2016. A month later, he tweeted this: “The invention of email has proven to be a very bad thing for Crooked Hillary in that it has proven her to be both incompetent and a liar!”
Then there was the drama regarding the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails – and whether she had broken any laws regarding the transmission of classified information by using a private account. Months after announcing the FBI would not press charges against Clinton, then-FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress indicating the investigation had been re-opened due to emails found on a laptop owned by former New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.
For her part, Clinton has blamed the Comey email announcement for her loss. “There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Clinton told donors shortly after her defeat. “Our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.”
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Whether you buy that explanation from Clinton is actually beside the point. The point is this: It is literally impossible to believe, after everything that transpired during the 2016 campaign regarding Clinton’s use of a private email to conduct government business, that Ivanka Trump was simply unaware that what she was doing wasn’t allowed. It’s just not possible.
Team Ivanka was quick to note that the two situations weren’t – and aren’t – exactly the same. Again, Mirijanian:
“To address misinformation being peddled about Ms. Trump’s personal email, she did not create a private server in her house or office, there was never classified information transmitted, the account was never transferred or housed at Trump Organization, no emails were ever deleted, and the emails have been retained in the official account in conformity with records preservation laws and rules.”
Which, OK. Clinton did delete a large chunk of the emails she sent from her private account after someone working for her did a broad canvas of all the emails she had sent and determined that they were entirely personal and therefore could be deleted without sharing them with investigators. (Roughly 50% of the emails on Clinton’s private server were deleted, while 44% were turned over to investigators.)
And sure, there are – at least on the surface – some specific differences between what Clinton did and what Ivanka did. But man, in the big picture it’s pretty damn similar.
The Mirijanian statement misses the point. It’s stretched credulity well beyond snapping to think that Ivanka was simply blissfully unaware that what she was doing in using her private email account was totally on the up and up. No sentient being – and certainly not one working at the top levels of government who also happens to be the eldest daughter of the President of the United States – could have lived through the 2016 campaign and not understood this basic equation: Private emails for government business = bad.
It remains to be seen whether what Ivanka Trump did merits an official investigation – although I strongly suspect the Democratic House will be taking a hard look come January. But what is quite clear in all of this is that Ivanka absolutely had to have known better.