In the latest developments of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s bold and far-reaching investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Trump’s own daughter has been called to testify before a federal grand jury.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Ivanka Trump, the former president’s eldest daughter and ex-White House adviser, was subpoenaed by Smith, along with her husband Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the Trump administration, as part of the Justice Department’s probe.
The decision to call Ivanka to testify under oath is the latest evidence that Smith is leaving no witnesses behind, no matter how high-profile they may be, and comes two weeks after it was revealed that Smith subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence.
Unlike Pence, however, Ivanka has previously testified about her father’s role in the January 6 Capitol riot, appearing before the House committee investigating the attack. Clips of her testimony had been played for the public during the panel’s public hearings last year.
Ivanka Trump listens during a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill on June 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Inset: Prosecutor Jack Smith presides during a presentation in The Hague on November 9, 2020. Anna Moneymaker/Jerry Lampen/Stringer
So, why does Smith want to hear from Ivanka again? Legal experts told Newsweek why this subpoena could end up being more revealing than her earlier statements.
The Purpose of the Subpoena
One of Smith’s key tasks as the special counsel in charge of the DOJ probe is to use the accounts of those closest to Trump to help build his case. In other words, he’s trying to “get inside Trump’s head” to figure out what he knew on the morning of January 6, Neama Rahmani told Newsweek.
Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, explained that the easiest way for Smith to prove Trump’s intent is to use the former president’s own words and the words that were said to him.
“Trump is notoriously careful not to keep written records, so what he said to Ivanka and others in his inner circle will be key evidence in the investigation,” he said.
Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade added that even if Ivanka’s testimony ends up being favorable to Trump, it will be key to whether Smith files charges.
“Memorializing that testimony under oath is important to prevent the witness from fabricating testimony favorable to the defense at trial,” she told Newsweek.
What Will Prosecutors Ask Ivanka Trump?
Ivanka has previously testified that she was with her father on January 6, both in the White House and at the rally that preceded the Capitol attack, so her account of the day, as well as the conversations she engaged in and overheard, could help Smith build a timeline of Trump’s whereabouts and knowledge that day.
But McQuade said it is likely prosecutors will ask her about any discussions she had with the former president, even before January 6.
By asking Ivanka whether Trump indicated any knowledge that he lost the election, Smith could bolster arguments that Trump actively engaged in fraud. And by asking her about Trump’s knowledge of the security threats leading up to the riot to prove that the former president failed to take action to stop the violence, despite being alerted to the danger at the Capitol.
Ion Meyn, an assistant professor of law at the University of Wisconsin, said that the prosecution is also likely to ask Ivanka about other key players, which could be used to impeach those who denied being a part of certain conversations that day.
Ivanka Trump is displayed on a screen during a hearing by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 09, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
“Asking Ivanka where she was, when, and who she was throughout the day is essential to discovering any additional people who might have relevant information,” Meyn told Newsweek.
Because it is likely that some individuals will try to minimize their participation, witnesses who heard or observed otherwise will help the prosecution develop possible lines of impeachment evidence.
“If Ivanka reveals that additional individuals were parties to important conversations, the DOJ can then question them, and request any emails or texts related to the conversations,” he said.
And because there is already existing testimony from Ivanka, former federal prosecutor and elected state attorney Michael McAuliffe told Newsweek that Smith is likely to go into areas that weren’t covered by the January 6 House committee or go into further detail in the questions already posed to her.
What Makes This Deposition Different?
Ivanka is not a newcomer when it comes to speaking on her father’s mindset on the day of the Capitol riot, but legal experts say that a deposition before a grand jury—as opposed to congressional investigators—presents procedural factors that could grant Smith critical information.
“A deposition is a very powerful investigative tool because Ivanka is required to answer questions that could not be asked at a trial,” Meyn explained.
During a trial, certain questions could draw hearsay objections, and thus, remain unanswered by witnesses. But without an attorney present during a grand jury session, Ivanka won’t have those interjections.
“The prosecutor, the grand jurors, and a court reporter are the only individuals with a witness during grand jury testimony,” McAuliffe said.
Without her attorney in the room, “a prosecutor can force a witness to commit to an answer on an issue or event,” McAuliffe explained, adding that this would help Smith avoid surprises later on in the case, especially after an indictment.
Now, the biggest question that remains is whether Ivanka will appear before the federal grand jury, or if she will invoke executive privilege or fight to block the subpoena like other Trump associates have.
You must log in to post a comment.