The Trump family’s cooperation with the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol – and Ivanka Trump’s appearance in particular – has proven useful in confirming other key testimony about the state of play inside the White House as well as then-President Donald Trump’s state of mind that day.
In a recent exclusive interview with CNN, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson gave the most extensive account yet of the testimony behind closed doors.
“There were questions asked about what was she doing at the time that the insurrection was occurring at the Capitol, and she told us,” the Mississippi Democrat said of Ivanka Trump. Investigators “asked certain questions about her awareness of what her father was doing. She told us.”
While Thompson was careful to point out that Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law Jared Kushner did not give away any “trade secrets,” and that their testimony was not against Trump himself, he said the couple did corroborate critical testimony from others who said the then-President was reluctant to try to call off the rioters despite being asked to do so.
“They kinda supported the fact that the President was told he had to do something to stop the January 6 insurrection. That he had to be public with it; he had to be direct,” Thompson said. “So in that respect … we have been able to systematically, with our depositions and interviewing of other witnesses, we’ve been able to fill in a lot of the gaps.”
The committee heard evidence from more than one witness, including former Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg, who said Ivanka Trump was sometimes with her father as he watched the riot unfold on TV in a room off the Oval Office. Such testimony is key, especially with an hours-long gap in the presidential daily diary during that period on January 6.
Trump family members cooperate while some aides refuse
A person close to the Trump family told CNN the former President’s children never saw a reason not to cooperate with the committee because none of them felt appearing before the panel put them at any risk. They also perceived the committee’s decision not to subpoena them as a sign that they weren’t walking into a contentious situation.
This person also noted that Kushner was traveling in the Middle East on January 6, 2021, and got Covid-19 upon return, adding that he wasn’t involved in planning the “Stop the Steal” rally or in communication with some of the fringe figures who were counseling his father-in-law on ways to overturn the election.
Ivanka Trump and Kushner did not invoke the Fifth Amendment or claim privilege during their interviews, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
A representative for Ivanka Trump and Kushner did not respond to a request for comment.
Thompson’s description of the importance of this family testimony reflects a curious evolving pattern of some top advisers to the former President refusing to share with the committee what they witnessed of Trump, while key family members – some of whom were also top White House aides – go ahead and talk to the committee.
In addition to Ivanka Trump and Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. is expected to testify, and he and the committee are working to schedule his appearance. His fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle, spoke to the committee last month.
In his interview with CNN, Thompson questioned why the former President did not object to his family members testifying while key White House aides are now being held in contempt of Congress by the House after refusing to testify, saying they had been instructed by the President to claim executive privilege over their conversations.
“Now we have four individuals who are being held in contempt of Congress because they were directed by the President not to come. So they are under the bus, but his children are not. They came,” Thompson said. “Now to me, that’s Donald Trump that we are discovering. It’s ‘do as I say, but not do as I do.’ Do you understand? I say don’t go and testify, but when my children or my in-laws are involved, you can go testify.”
Thompson said he was unaware of whether the family members sought permission from the former President to talk to the committee or spoke with him beforehand.
“I just know that if the children went and the others didn’t because he told them not to go, based on their own accounting, that’s just suspicious,” Thompson said. “I think it’s ironic that he would tell some people not to come and they follow his direction and get held in contempt of Congress,” while his children do the opposite. “So, I mean, that’s kind of who he is.”
The Biden White House has uniformly refused to assert privilege for former White House aides, including Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Donald Trump told The Washington Post that he had offered the couple “privilege” if they wanted it, but they declined. The former President also called his daughter’s eight-hour interview a “shame and harassment.”
In a statement to CNN, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said, “This committee has exposed itself as partisan hacks who have tampered and edited evidence, while also selectively leaking testimony to peddle their dishonest political agenda. To make matters worse, their allies in the media are going along with it, parroting half truths and Democrat talking points as gospel.”
Top former Trump advisers Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro have been held in contempt of Congress by the House for holding back information from the committee. Bannon, the only one to face criminal contempt charges so far, has tied his podcast brand, in part, to supporting Trump.
Yet several other advisers to the former President have sat for lengthy interviews, such as Guilfoyle, administration official Stephen Miller and even top lawyers from the White House.
Thompson has said the committee is open to subpoenaing the former President if necessary.
Major new clashes between the committee and the ex-President have been at a minimum since Trump lost his attempt to keep secret documents from his White House, and lawyers for Trump have had a relatively haphazard approach to how witnesses from the White House should handle their testimony, according to several people familiar with the committee’s conversations with top witnesses.
Inside the White House on January 6
Based on the logs of texts, reviewed by CNN, that were provided to the committee by Meadows, both Ivanka Trump and Kushner were part of a group text chain on November 5, 2020, in which Ivanka Trump told her White House and campaign colleagues: “You are all WARRIORS of epic proportions! Keep the faith and the fight!”
On January 6, 2021, Ivanka Trump wrote a tweet, which she later deleted, calling the rioters “patriots.” But gradually, she has backed away from any overt support for those who stormed the Capitol and false claims of election fraud.
Kellogg’s testimony before the House committee described the important role Ivanka Trump played on January 6, calling her “heroic.”
Kellogg recalled that she went to speak to her father in the White House “because Ivanka Trump can be pretty tenacious. And I think she went back in on more than one occasion to try to get a sense of – sense of what was going on. And I think she just – that’s just, my experience, that’s her nature,” Kellogg testified.
“Ivanka could bring raw truth to an issue. And I thought if there was any adviser in the White House in four years that could talk to her dad as a dad, it was Ivanka. It wasn’t Jared. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t anybody. It was a daughter to a dad,” Kellogg testified. “So I knew she was the hold card.”
Kellogg indicated Ivanka Trump had more sway with her father than other staffers for one reason in particular: “We’re not blood.”
The text chain group, first published by CNN, also included campaign aides Bill Stepien and Jason Miller, along with advisers Hope Hicks, Meadows and Scavino.
On December 4, in one of the few messages Meadows received from Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law shared a fact check of one of the most prominent election fraud claims from Georgia. The article showed that despite inflammatory claims of poll workers stashing suitcases filled with ballots under a table, that did not, in fact, occur.
And on January 6, Miller wrote to Kushner, Meadows and Scavino that while he “totally disagreed with the outcome of the election and the facts bear me out….nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”
Kushner responded at 10:10 p.m. that night: “Why don’t we post on his Facebook page since he isn’t locked out there…”
Thompson also confirmed to CNN that the committee knows, from multiple sources, that Trump “was told that he had lost the election by a number of people, and he just refused to accept it. … I think he wanted all hell to break loose.”
Jamie Gangel, Katelyn Polantz, Ryan Nobles and Zachary Cohen contributed to this story.