It looks like the recent discussions in the White House about a presidential pardon for Donald Trump’s children may be more timely than we initially thought.
According to a court filing in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Ivanka Trump was deposed today as part of the Washington DC attorney general’s office lawsuit alleging the misuse of inaugural funds for her father’s January 2017 inaugural festivities.
In January, the DC attorney general’s office sued the Trump Organization and Presidential Inaugural Committee alleging they abused more than $1 million raised by the nonprofit by “grossly overpaying” for use of event space at the Trump hotel in Washington for the 2017 inauguration.
The Trump family bilking the inaugural committee out of money for their own personal profit? How on-brand!
Ivanka’s deposition comes after Tom Barrack, the chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, offered his sworn testimony in the case a few weeks back.
The court filing also indicates that the Washington DC attorney general’s office has subpoenaed records from Barrack, Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Rick Gates, the former inaugural committee deputy chairman, in their quest to prosecute the siphoning of funds from the millions in donations that poured into the inaugural committee.
The lawsuit claims that Rick Gates was the person who “personally managed” the negotiations with the Trump hotel about renting space for their inaugural events.
The details provided in the court documents show that Gates himself was worried about the appearance of impropriety in the committee’s contracting with a property owned by the Trump Organization.
In a letter to Ivanka in December of 2016, Gates said that he was “a bit worried about the optics of PIC [Presidential Inaugural Committee] paying Trump Hotel a high fee and the media making a big story out of it.”
In the end, the lawsuit contends, Rick Gates reached an agreement with The Trump International Hotel’s managing director and Trump family members to pay $175,000 per day for the committee to use the space for four days.
One would think that the protestations of the committee’s own event planner — Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a friend of First Lady Melania Trump — that the rates agreed to were at least twice the market rate might have at least indicated that they should hire a better negotiator on behalf of the Presidential Inaugural Committee than Gates.
The lawsuit cites Wolkoff’s expression of concern about the costly deal in a subsequent meeting with both the then-President-elect and his daughter Ivanka and in a follow-up email as a key part of its evidence of impropriety in the transaction.
Despite Wolkoff’s trepidations about the deal, it was accepted by the Inaugural Committee nonetheless.
With Wolkoff set to give her own deposition next week, the case is proceeding as the DC attorney general has planned, but is not expected to reach any conclusion before the next set of inaugural festivities begins.
After the news of Ivanka Trump’s deposition became public, the first daughter herself posted the following tweet explaining that she had a paper trail that — in her opinion — completely exonerates her of overcharging the Inaugural Committee.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) December 3, 2020
It will be interesting to see what a grand jury might infer by comparing the instructions that Ivanka Trump issued to the managers at the Trump International Hotel to charge “a fair market rate” and the actual invoices paid which can easily be cross-checked against the rates of similar facilities and against the rates that the hotel itself charged events held at other times.
Once those comparisons are made it should be fairly simple to see just how fair the rates paid truly were.
If there is a significant disparity, as Stephanie Winston Wolkoff has said, perhaps Ivanka will soon have a concrete conviction for which to have her daddy pardon her.
Hopefully, she will be only the first of many Trump family members to be convicted for their grifting ways.
Original reporting by Kara Scannell at CNN.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.